It has been one year
On January 28, 2015 many of us marked the one year anniversary of the passing of our beloved friend JRTPUP (Barbara). Much has happened in that year and as difficult as it is to remember, I am drawn to write this blog so our broader community will know of Barbara’s contributions but also so we might take a collective breath and remember how much she meant to each of us.
Like many of us I met Barbara in Chat. We became fast friends based on two things. First we both loved this community. And second we shared a strange sense of humor. I admired her humor and she often tolerated mine. That may seem an odd thing to base a friendship on, but it worked for us.
However I was far from alone in Barbara finding odd ways to form friendships. I believe she often found what mattered most to individuals and forming a friendship based on that. Time and again she met people where they were, not in her comfort zone. It is a rare person who can do that. She might engage me with humor, someone else based on a shared love of cooking and still others based on the difficulties of being diabetic. It helped make Barbara one of the most cherished people on TUDiabetes.
In my case, we shared a hope for our community to thrive. She would often ask me to help with something or write something, or engage someone new in our community. If you were her friend she might ask you to run in endless routes helping a person or project she had knowledge of all the while making it seem like it was your idea. I do not know how many times she would start a conversation with the words ‘Rick will you’ I knew every time a line started like that I would be off on a new adventure, to write about, talk to or learn of something or somebody that Barbara had selected me to interact with. It was always a pleasure to help out and she seemed to know of what would interest me so my tasks were never a job, rather a privilege to help out. I miss that in our community today.
I recall that Barbara was passionate about her causes, be they personal or for the benefit of our community. She once told me of a difficultly she was having with a member; they had disagreed about a matter. Apparently they had both been rather strong in this position. She did not win her point, instead different options were chosen. A lessor person might have quit caring about our community. Instead Barbra was fully supportive of the new direction. She told me all the reasons this was a better idea. I laughed, because I knew 24 hours before she had argued for a different approach. But when the decision was made, I always saw Barbara support it and move forward. That is a rare commodity in a person and it is always part of the best leaders I have known.
Which brings me to why Barbara is so revered as part of our community and why she is and will always be one of many great members here; she was a servant leader. Servant leadership is one of the main leadership approaches. The termed was coined by Robert Greenleaf and it refers to people who lead a group of individuals by giving service, above all else. The term describes Barbara to a tee; she led us by being a servant to our community. She did not lead for glory or ego. She was not caught up on who had the idea or who might get the pat on the back. Instead she was all about getting a job done. Often she did not mind doing the hard work or taking the grief to do what is right as opposed to convenient.
As often as not she steered us from behind the scenes offering a comforting word, a private high five or sending us on a secret mission to benefit the community. She was not involved here for glory she was involved to make this place better. That is why so many of us regard her so fondly and why I am so happy to call her my friend.
I will never forget the last brief conversation I had with Barbara. She was in the hospital and concerned about our community. She was afraid the cancer had returned and was facing an important day of testing and ultimately getting the bad news that would eventually take her. She was then, like she was most times I talked to her, plotting to help others. I finally said Barbara relax, we got this. I told her we can do this, the TUDiabetes community will be ok. Little did I know when it would be our last discussion. I have thought of that many times over the last year. I sometimes wonder, if we really have this? I often ask what would Barbara say or do to help someone. Today we have no choice, but oh it would be so much easier if we had Barbara here with us.
So Barbara (I know you are listening) we are facing a bunch of stuff in our community right now. Changes many of us are concerned about, but It is no different than our community has always faced. But even with all the changes and concerns, Barbra We Got This.