Monthly Archives: July 2013

Goofiness: a stage of mourning

In the 1970’s, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ Five Stages of Grief was vastly popular and much preached.   We had the idea that one worked through these stages–denial, anger, bargaining, and  depression–in that order until finally arriving at acceptance, the final stage.   However, Dr. Kubler-Ross hadn’t meant that these five stages made up the entire task of grief, that one could wrap up  mourning in a neat little package and would recover if one followed her teaching exactly.   No, she stated that these were five of the stages of grieving but not all of them.  She also stated some people didn’t go through all of these and, if they do,  probably not in a set order.  

After George’s death, I was drowning in denial but don’t remember bargaining.   If I did experience anger, it was transient and certainly not against George for leaving me.   And I also experienced stages she didn’t include, the first of those being goofiness.  

My favorite color is yellow, the color of sunshine and flowers and, for me, healing and joy.    When my friend Ellen sends me a gift or flowers, she always chooses yellow.  I adored my yellow car.  I felt positive  driving it and could always find it in a parking lot which cut down on stress.   Although it’s not a good color on me, yellow tops and shirts fill the closet because they cheer me up.  Yes, I love yellow.  Always have.

George’s choices of colors were, well, boring to me.  He liked dark green, gray-blue, beige and other earth tones.  When I wanted to buy a light-colored sofa, he reminded me what three cocker spaniels would do to that.  He was right.  Nonetheless, after he died, I needed yellow.  Yes, needed yellow!  Yearned for it, craved the warmth of my favorite color.  I bought two yellow throws on-line, picked up two floral pillows to replace the matching dark green pillows of the love seat, pulled out the yellow towels to replace the blue.   Then I bought bright art.   I replaced a small picture in the guest bathroom with a map of the United States in yellow and orange and bright primary colors.  I bought a 3 x 3 hanging with a yellow background.  

Then, after a  week,  I didn’t need it anymore.  I feel slightly embarrassed about that map now.  It would look great in the room of a five-year-old.  I don’t know what the saying  on that wall hanging is because I never put it.  It now lives in a closet. 

But I needed to do this.  For a few days, I needed to be weird and goofy and crazy.   The yellow throws got me through those days of intense pain, lifted my spirits in the way dark green didn’t. 

For me, goofiness was definitely a stage in healing.  I haven’t arrived at complete acceptance but am moving in that direction.  I’ve gone through gone-ness, curiosity, and shame as well and plan to share them with you.  The point of this blog is that we all grieve in different ways.

Would you share how you’ve handled grief?  Have you felt goofy at any time during the process?

A friend remembers George

Carol Sue Barnett is the sister of George’s long-time friend Wayne.  Here she shares her thoughts about George, Wayne, and their friendship.  That’s a young Wayne Barnett to the left.

Jane is correct that my older brother Wayne Barnett is a fine man, but I’d like to add that his friendship with George immeasurably contributed to Wayne’s accomplishments, as a student and as a minister.

Our parents raised us in the church, as they had been raised. On both sides, church had been an integral part of family life for generations. They were Disciples, Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians, but few lacked any church affiliation. Our Grandfather Barnett’s maternal grandfather had been an itinerant Baptist preacher. Upon Granddaddy Barnett’s parents’ marriage in 1859, his mother adopted his father’s church and became a Disciple (Christian Church, Disciples of Christ), the church in which we were raised.

To my knowledge, Wayne is the family’s first formally trained and ordained minister. (Our younger sister Sally Barnett McClain is the second.) I remember well Wayne’s teenaged announcement that when he grew up he wanted to be either a test pilot or a minister. This didn’t make much sense then, but now it does: both professions are all consuming and life threatening. Wayne’s myopia precluded his first choice. But his vision was sufficiently far-sighted for the ministry.

And that’s where George comes in. Wayne, not an exceptional student in high school—he was popular and busy with social activities, and he put in long hours on the family farm—has always credited George with teaching him to study. Once Wayne started spending hours each day with George, away from the farm’s demands, his analytical processes matured, and his grades improved.

But, even more important to his chosen profession, Wayne, through caring for George, learned attentiveness and compassion, essential qualifications for a minister’s calling, and they both approached Wayne’s job of getting George around and through his day with two other essential qualifications—good humor and determination. This was poignantly evident in LaDonna and Wayne’s marriage ceremony, at which George officiated. Upon being asked, George demurred, saying he had never before performed a marriage ceremony and that they should choose a minister who wasn’t disabled. LaDonna and Wayne countered that they hadn’t been married before, and that George should be their minister for that milestone. Faced with this challenge, George met it, courageously and eloquently, as he met all that came his way after his accident.

Accompanying our mother, I attended Wayne’s retirement service and celebration in September 2007 at the First Christian Church of Maysville, Kentucky. George and Jane, living in Texas, couldn’t attend, but they were present.  By his constant example, both in school and throughout their careers, George had helped teach Wayne to minister and to enjoy a loving relationship with his congregation and the community he served. On behalf of our family, I offer our gratitude.


This hasn’t been a good year.  The hardest part was the death of my husband.  I still mourn that.   Then, when I was nomnated for a top honor for THE WELCOME COMMITTEE OF BUTTERNUT CREEK and planned to go to the conference in Atlanta to attend the conference and award ceremony, I had a detached retina which meant I couldn’t fly until three days after that ceremony.  A disappointment.

But, in the midst of these months, there were many, many blessings.  Let me count them for you.

1)  I got to spend forty-seven years with the finest, sexiest, most intelligent and delightful man in the world.  Not every second was marvelous but the whole experience changed me and made me a better, happier, more self-confident person.

2)  My friends have been so wonderful.  Church friends, writing friends, long-time friends have written me and supported me, come by when I was hysterical, held my hand, called and sent me flowers.  I have been so very blessed by all of them.

3)  George’s family and best friend dropped everything and came to Texas.  They took care of me, stayed with George, and I will always remember their love and concern and how much their presence meant to George.

4)  I was nominated for a RITA, something I thought would never, never happen.   My career has not be a long series of successes.  In twelve years, ten of my books have been published.  My friend Tracy Wolff writes that many in a week–every one of them great.   Exactly three weeks after George’s funeral, I received the call my book was nominated.   I didn’t even realize that was the day RITA calls were being made.  I didn’t answer the first call because I screen calls and didn’t recognize the number.   I only answered the second call to ask this person not to bother me again.   But the fact remains:  I was nominated for a RITA.  That overwhelmed me and continues to.

5)  I have enough to eat, a nice apartment, a car that runs, and two darling cats that keep my company.   Those facts put me in a small percentage of the world’s population.  Although this feels like a blessing, I’m haunted by those who go to bed hungry, who live in a box or hovel, who have no health care or or future.

6)   For a person my age, I’m fairly healthy.  I try to swim four or five times a week in a pool only steps from my apartment.   I know lots of specialists who watch over my health and keep me running.

7)  And my CARDS won the NCAA basketball championship!

And I know there are more but these are at the top of my list.  Many thanks to all of you who’ve been parts of those blessings.

Sorry I haven’t posted recently

But I have a really good excuse.

On July 3rd, I had eye surgery to repair a detached retina.    The retina specialist inserted a gas bubble into the eye which helps the retina reattach.   To keep the bubble in place,  I have to lie on my left side, my rights side, or my stomach.  I can also look straight at the floor when I’m sitting up.   Needless to say, this has cut down a great deal on my writing, blogging and posting.

With this air bubble, I cannot fly or be placed in a hyperbolic chamber.  I wasn’t planning on doing anything hyperbolic but I had planned to fly to the RWA conference in Atlanta on Tuesday.  However, I also do not want to lose my vision which could happen if I fly while the gas bubble is still present.

I visited the retina specialist this morning.  He says I cannot fly on Tuesday.  I see him again Wednesday and he may allow me to fly Thursday or Friday.

Hope to begin blogging soon but, first, I have to go stare at the floor.

Happy Fourth of July–in two days

This greeting is early, I know, but since I  blog on Tuesday and Friday, I thought a mention was due BEFORE the actual Fourth.

What is your favorite part of the Fourth?  I’m sure you have many.  Mine are sort of a mix of all the past Fourths:  lots of fireworks when I was very young.  My favorites as a child were snakes.  You young people may not have ever heard of them.  They weren’t exciting.   Before being lit, a snake looked like a piece of black licorice the size of an aspirin.  When I lit the top, the snake would grow in a long, black tube of ash, coiling like a snake.  When they reached a length of about six inches, it stopped.  A light breeze would break the ashes up and blow them away.

However, snakes–boring as they were–were very safe.   When I was six, I took a sparkler and lit it.  Unfortunately, I was holding the wrong end.  I’d pick up the soft, thick end of the sparkler, believing–and, yes, I do remember this–that was the comfortable handle.  When I put a match on the other end, the heat moved down the wire section and the part I held–the “sparkler” part–burst into, well, sparkles.  I got terrible burns on my palm.   A great deal of what I remember about celebrating the Fourth has to do with pain.

Every year back then, in late June, there were explosions in stores that carried fireworks as well as the factories and transportation centers.   That’s why you see fireworks sold at stands yards away from and building and why sparklers are now so hard to light.   When I was a kid, fireworks killed people.   I feel it is my duty, as an old person, to mention history.

However, I do have good memories of the Fourth which include family and watermelon and long drives to Wichita, Kansas, and back to Kansas City in the same day.  Historical note:  this was before car air conditioning.  

What’s your favorite memory of Independence Day?