January 17, 2008

Like a Rose

I've been in a state of semi-shock for the past two months.  I heard about Debra's death initially from a most unlikely source -- my seven-year-old son who is a classmate of Frankie Ray's.  His class had been told of the sad news just after the Thanksgiving break.  He told me this just as we were snuggling up in his bed to go to sleep, after we had read a book. "Something bad happened to a mother of one of the kids in my class."  I was stunned and heartsick. 

I did not know Debra well.  I'd probably never had more than a cumulative thirty minutes of conversation with her in addition to several casual greetings during the time that Frankie Ray had become a student in the same class as my son.  But what made me most heartsick was that my longest conversation with her came two weeks to the day before her death.  We met, naturally, at a kindergartener's birthday party at Jackson Park in the Potrero flats on 17th Street, near Live Oak school.  We were playing pickup baseball and I was pitching as we talked. Every time I drive by that park, which is on the way between my kids' school and my gym, I look over near the pitcher's mound of the little baseball field and hope to see Debra there, just as she was there on what was an unseasonably hot day.

She told me about some of her struggles and I tried to be supportive of her, encouraging her to keep up what had seemed like a good fight against her problems.  In retrospect, I might have seen some of the warning signs of her impending death.  Could I have said something that might have helped her?  Could I have given her sage advice?  (I am a physician, with my own heroic rescue fantasies.)  But of course, it wasn't meant to be.

I didn't even know then that she was a world-class photographer.  I found out when I Googled her after her death.  I knew she was gifted artistically and, in fact, I had asked her if she was going to help us again with our school auction in the spring.  Her designer's eye really helped to make our auction appealing and successful.  She said, "Well, I don't know.  I've got myself spread a little too thin, I've got to protect myself, I've got to start saying 'No' to some things."

Debra was obviously very physically attractive, but, as many others have mentioned, her glowing persona was even more beautiful, more radiant.  To me, Debra was a flower of our generation.  She wasn't a famous one, like the Dalai Lama or Nelson Mandela, but she was a flower nonetheless in a generation in which flowers are few and far between.  She was a shining star, a diamond.  I hope this doesn't sound trite, but in some ways, perhaps she was just too kind, too good, too sensitive, too aware, too beautiful for this world.

I will really, really miss her.  Our school community will really, really miss her.  You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.  But the message for me, going forward, is to live like Debra lived. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am so saddened by this news of (Debbie Barry). I knew her in High School in Asheville, NC. I recently went home for Easter and heard of her demise. I am so so sad! Her sister Kim Barry also committed suicide several years before. It makes me wonder if nature vs. nurture is a real thing. God rest her sole and Kim's too.xoxoxo~Howie Moody