Sunday, July 02, 2006

Ms Sarah B.

There was an article in the San Jose Mercury news about a friend assisting another friend to die. I was reading it while at the car wash. Tears just started alling down my cheeks, it hit so close to home.

I had a flashback to Santa Fe. I was sitting in the living room of Sarah Barber and Pat Bailey. I had known Sarah a number of years because in Santa Fe, it is a very small community of homos. She and I had worked together as volunteers with the Santa Fe Community Foundation.

In the last months preceding my visit to her living room, she had been diagnosed with a brain dysfunction. Sarah had first noticed losing her ability to read and write was diminishing. I was sitting at the table with her once and she asked which utensil she should use for eating.

So I asked what I could do to be supportive. She said I could come over and read to her. So I would schedule times with her and go read a chapter of Alice Munro's book to her. I would bring along the latest issues of the Advocate and whatever else I thought she would be interested in. Then I would sit in her living room and read with her terrier, Elvis, on my lap. Actually he was trying to hump my arm.

After the days of AIDS, I thought I had learned my lesson to show up more often. But I had been distracted by a gay bashing in Santa Fe and had spent my time organizing a candle light vigil. One afternoon we got a phone call to come over to Sarah's house, she had died.

But she hadn't just died. She made a tape recording to say that she had made a decision about her quality of life. She had no quality and was choosing to end her time with us.

Jo and I rushed over there to say goodbye. Ellie, Margie, Gloria D, and her partner Pat were all there. She lay in the bed, eyes open, but sightless. I kept expecting her to say something, anything.

Now I could no longer read to her. She could no longer tell me tales of her father, Red Barber and Jackie Robinson. Nor could we argue over strategies for the lgbt movement, either in New Mexico or the country. AS the student, she could not instruct me in the particular literary devices Alice Munro was using.

Sarah once said to me that I reminded her of Larry Kramer. I often said things people did not want to hear but that most times I was right. I was the proudest lesbian on the planet that day.

That day I said good bye I was one of the saddest lesbians on the planet.

I think about Sarah often the way I now think of Denice Denton often. Brilliant women who made a choice about the ultimate destiny of their lives. So as I sit here brooding about not having a job or whatever other thing I make up, I hope to learn the lesson they share in their deaths.

But what is that lesson? The answer only comes when I sit down and shut up so I guess it is time to do that.

But in the meantime, Sarah, I miss you but thank you for letting me walk the path with you.

Sarah is the middle lesbian in the picture.

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