Celebrating St. Barbara’s Day

A Love Story

I went to bed knowing that during this holy night one year ago, Barbara’s spirit was lifted from her heavily burdened body. I never sleep through the night and wondered if I’d awaken at the time I realized she was gone a year ago. Strangely (or perhaps not so strangely), I did. It was the exact same time, exactly one year ago today, when I discovered my wife in total stillness. Today, March 17, 2020, marks one year since my wife’s passing. In the meantime I’ve done everything I could to keep Barbara’s memory fresh. I don’t want to forget anything, but I understand it can happen to even the best of lovers.

Playing her original music as well as the cover songs we recorded during our band days always helps me to feel her presence. To relax in bed before falling asleep my phone plays our all time favorite Eva Cassidy selections such as Fields of Gold, Songbird and Time After Time in that order. By the time the last song ends I’m either asleep or very close.

Fields of Gold’ holds most dear since we used it to slow dance before I tucked Barbara into bed. As though it were our own creation, we’d gently sway, melting in each other’s arms. The powerful lyrics often triggered gentle verbal murmurs from Barbara’s once very powerful vocal cords. The lyric “I’ve never made promises lightly”  resonated with Barbara.  There we were after 40 years of marriage. Due to her strong sense of integrity, we were able to walk in fields of gold.

Other than changing St. Patrick’s Day to Saint Barbara’s day there was no better way to memorialize Barbara’s life than to install a bench along the rail trail that served our marriage during times of good, bad and indifferent. In our youth we ran the trail. After years of pounding and damaging my knees, I speed walked or cycled as she jogged. Occasionally we’d take a casual, beautiful day, fresh air walk. During those walks we usually discussed events that were taking shape amongst family as well as the world around us. Not very often, but there were times when we’d go separate ways. I might walk while Barbara would take off running. After her stroke that all changed.

Upon returning home from rehab on her birthday, Sept 4, 2015 we had to get back to some sense of normalcy and immediately resumed use of our beloved rail trail. Barbara tried a walker in an attempt to regain a sense of independence and balance but we discovered and preferred a manner of walking arm over arm. I’d sing a drum cadence or we’d  utilize yoga breathing routines while  moving along as quickly as possible so to get some  exercise in hopes of reclaiming some of what she had lost. Of course, along with the two of us was our little pooch. He loved the trail even more than we did. It was Barbara was on my left and poochie on my right. We were quite the sight I’m sure.

During a visit to my dad in Florida, Barbara discovered his adult tricycle. It was a big hit. As soon as we returned north I scouted Craigslist and there it was. We had to drive to Long Island to get it but when the sellers met Barbara they decided to waive the $300.00 price and gave the nearly new trike to us free of charge. We could only take the trike if it easily fit into the rear of our SUV and BOOM! Another perfect fit, and without the need to disassemble.

The tricycle gave the trail new meaning and Barbara a new sense of freedom. We used it often and with its rear basket, lil’ poochie was able to hitch a ride. It was such a beautiful sight to behold. Eventually, Barbara became too weak to ride or even walk slowly together arm and arm.

We had long decided to be cremated and  talked about dispersing our ashes in several different places that we revered as sacred.  The rail trail was one of them. Since dispersing half of Barbara’s ashes along the trail, it has become evermore sacred.

Upon ordering Barbara’s memorial bench from the town of Monroe in October of 2019, I was told that they’re built to order and I’d most likely have to wait until spring for it to be installed. It was a long time.  I just hoped to be alive to see the day. Well… the day arrived! As I walked the trail early on March 17th I prayed and there it was. I cried like a baby and didn’t care (there was no one in sight). It was magically installed on March 16, 2020. One day prior to the one year mark of St. Barbara’s Day.

Barbara’s beautiful bench serves as a place to sit, meditate and contemplate. And much like a tombstone, it is made to last several lifetimes if not more. The exact placement for the bench is one we loved for its sense of majesty. Centered between ancient, giant cliffs of granite on both sides it offers a tremendous sense magic and permanence.  Though we often had much to say along our many ventures, this location always commanded silence. Embossed in brass on Barbara’s bench reads:

Forever beholden to Barbara Scudder LaValle for her Love, Grace, Dignity, Wisdom and Strength.

          “We walked in Fields of Gold.”

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