Sunset on the mountain

Blogging U: Day 4 – Barbara

Today’s Assignment: Write about a loss: something (or someone) that was part of your life, and isn’t any more. I am having a hard time with this one. When something or someone was once part of my life, I still consider it to be part of my life, if only in memory.

My friend and colleague Barbara, is no longer here.  I knew her back in the 1990s. She was the Education Director for the Youth Science Institute (YSI). I hired her and realized that she did not work for me; I worked for her. I was the Executive Director, but she was the driving force behind the science and environmental education programs we offered to more than 37,000 school-age children every year. She was brilliant and passionate about her role!

She had been a Park Ranger. I later came to find out that she left this position, which had always been her dream,  because of a leg injury. We became good friends. I knew she lived alone in a house she rented close to the park where she had worked. But I knew nothing of her family, her friends, or other interests. She had grown up in the Bay Area, so I assumed she had some connections beyond her work life.

The first inkling I had that something was amiss happened when I was out-of-town visiting my mother in Arizona for a few days. I had asked her if she had any plans during the long Easter weekend and she had given me a vague answer saying she thought she might go down the coast to Big Sur with a friend.

While I was still in Arizona I got a call from one of our center managers saying that no one had seen Barbara for a couple of days. We had three nature centers. When she was not at one, everyone assumed she was at another. But he had checked and found that no one had seen her. This was unusual. He called her home and got no answer. Finally he drove to her house. He found her and she told him quite a tale.

She said she had been out on a boat at sea with some people she did not know and could not describe. The seas had been rough but they finally had managed to come ashore and get back home. With the help of a neighbor he managed to get her to a doctor. She was taken to a hospital for evaluation. She would accept no visitors

When I returned, she did allow me to visit. She was to stay in the psychiatric ward for two weeks before she could be released. She had cut off all communications with her family. No one knew how to get in touch with them. I was the only contact the hospital had. The diagnosis was bipolar disorder and they were trying to regulate medications to get her on an even keel. The boat trip she had described was the result of taking a prescription drug overdose apparently in an attempt to end her life.

She returned and continued as our Education Director. All seemed well and she was as good as ever until one day…..


This is a difficult subject for me to write about and I know there are a couple of upcoming assignments where I can continue this. So I will get a grip and continue this later.


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