Feb 032024

Hello from my couch on an actually sunny Saturday afternoon. I’m the only one here right now and it’s the first time all week that I have been alone with no distractions so the thoughts, they do be marching in.

This past week felt like it was a month long. It really did. There has been so much emotion-processing, Stages of Grief maneuvering, ugly cries, quiet cries, shower cries, subconscious cries, gluten free cries. So many kinds of cries. I’m still waiting on the Big Cry though because I can feel it building and I can feel the valve shuddering.

There was a small burial service and luncheon on Thursday for Barb. It was a very heavy day, also cathartic with a side of confusion, and it’s all really hitting me now. I am so grateful to be given the chance to say a final goodbye, and to be there in the company of some of my favorite people (and to also see some ex-law firm friends – DebSev and Kaitlin, that was a lovely surprise and such a comfort.). There were moments that felt straight-up surreal, such as when a photo slideshow played during the luncheon at Houlihan’s: the number of times I had the urge to turn and lovingly make fun of Barb only to remember that she wasn’t there…it was a huge emotional “ouch.” Like when you wake up from a dream where you were free-falling? That’s what it keeps it feeling like.

I did have a nice laugh with Jeannie and Aaron though as we perused the luncheon menu and I saw that there wasn’t anything meat-free I could choose from. “One last ‘eff you’ from Barb,” I said, and we all laughed. (No really, we did laugh! The mood had significantly lightened once it was luncheon time. And anyway, as Barb would always quote from Steel Magnolias: laughter through tears is my favorite emotion.)

When talking to Barb’s son and brother, I couldn’t even get any words out, just felt frozen with grief, so I smiled sadly and nodded a lot and then instantly regretted not saying the things I needed to say. I wore a necklace that she bought me years ago on Etsy and I wanted to point that out and say something that wasn’t just a canned platitude, like, “Barb was so special to me and had a huge impact on my life, and I know there are so many other people who share this sentiment” but – grief had other plans for my vocal chords I guess. I am so much better at putting my feelings onto paper. Or this dumb blog – which, hello, has been super helpful this week while Wendy, Jeannie and I try to remember things like, “When did we go to Olive Garden with Barb?” And I had forgotten that the four of us had met for dinner at Proper, July of 2019, so that may have been the last time I saw her IRL. I had previously thought it was 2018.

Apparently, Barb couldn’t read the drink menu that well because of the low lighting so the server brought her over a cup of “cheaters”. This picture cracks me up.

I want to always remember this too: at the luncheon, Barb’s brother came over to me at our table and asked, “Are you Erin Kelly? Boy, my sister really loved you. She talked about you all the time. You sound like a very….interesting…..person.” !!!! I started tearing up immediately and then he was too and it was the best peace of mind anyone could have given to me at that moment because these last few years, with her not being responsive to texts and invitations to hang out, talk, whatever, I really started to wonder if I had done something to push her away, if she didn’t like me anymore, if she would have been pissed to know that I was sitting there at a luncheon in her honor. The relief I felt was immeasurable.

I’m so thankful for all the memories I made with Barb over the years, for Barb inviting me into her life outside of work, and for being in the company of so many great friends who are also really going through it right now. Jesus Christ, Barb, if you’re up there milking wifi off some celestial cafe, sipping on an angel-made PSL (holla!) and reading this – look at the impact you had on us! Holes in our hearts.

  4 Responses to “laughter through tears is my favorite emotion”

  1. I’m so sorry for your loss. Wish I could make the pain easier.

  2. Oh, God, Erin, what a loss. I’m so sorry. I feel like I know Barb from all that you’ve written about her. Also, is the Wendy you mentioned Wendy Kelly? In true ‘Burgh fashion, I know her from a writing group I went to years ago and she posted about losing Barb on her Facebook page this week. Losing such a close friend is awful and I’m just so sorry.

    • Pittsburgh is truly so small! I was referring to a different Wendy here BUT I know the one you are talking about and finally met her for the first time on Thursday. She was Barb’s best friend and Barb used to talk about her all the time. Thank you for this comment, I really needed that smile!

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