Friday, July 23

We'll be seeing you around, Barry ...

Barry in a meditative moment
Yesterday brought the dreaded news that our dear blog friend, Barry Fraser, intrepid explorer of myriad marvels and pains of life, has passed away. Although we all knew this was a harshly real and perhaps imminent possibility, word of Barry's death comes as a shock nonetheless and packs a painful wallop, somewhat softened by the beautiful and courageous way in which his wife, Linda, broke the news on Barry's blog yesterday. Thank you, Linda. The calm and tender bravery of your message, the refusal to give cancer or death dominion, and the forward-looking plans on a simple rite to remember Barry are stirring and ring so true to the spirit he evinced throughout this ordeal.

Some of you have been following Barry's blog, An Explorer's View of Life, since before he was diagnosed with cancer back in March 2009. I first 'met' him in February of this year as part of what quickly grew into a worldwide bell-chiming campaign to celebrate the end of his chemotherapy sessions (for more on that ritual click here). I was very new to blogging at that time (a couple of months) and the experience opened my eyes to how powerful and meaningful blogging could be as a means of developing a caring community of friends. Real friends, not virtual buddies. Genuine and raw feelings, not cyber emotions. The outpouring of affection and support for Barry was stunning and inspiring. Overwhelming was perhaps the word he used most often to describe the effect on him.

And was it all for naught? That is the cruel and vexing question posed by his passing just a few short months later. You may rush to remind me, and rightly so, that the answer is no, that compassion, friendship and generosity are never futile or vain or wasted. But when we hear this grim bell tolling its wretched knell, that uncouth question clangs heavily in the air and clings to our thoughts about our own lives and destinies as well. I would like to find and offer lofty words to beat back that stupid question, but forgive me if for this one sullen moment I merely acknowledge its presence. The bell's peal will fade, I know, and fatten the silence left by many others.

The death of a friend sends us on a punishing and lonely climb up a mountain of memories suddenly heaved up at a crazy angle, crowned by the foreboding ridge of death that overhangs our ascent in its cruel shadow. To mourn is to scale that last vertical bluff before the summit, the toughest part of our journey. But once we manage to reach the crest and turn our pained eyes and hearts away from the cliff face to see the landscape of our friend's life stretch out before us, our fatigue is lightened and we know the painful climb was necessary to bring the fullness of vision only won atop such summits.

So what can we see in the landscape of Barry's life? What do I see in the blogscape he has left us? I see a tender, warm-hearted and friendly storyteller, graced with wit, a probing curiosity, a gentle self-deprecating humor and a generous heart. Whether teaming up with Linda to share a bit of lore about his local community on their Friday My Home Town Shoot Out blog, or narrating family history or recalling his grandfather on a Sepia Saturday, he was always a fascinating raconteur. Although the ravages of the disease took a brutal toll on his body, he had the game spirit to keep on blogging nearly every day. And his writing was almost always upbeat, with a striking absence of morosity, self-pity or bewailing his fate. While many of us will whine about writer's block or the frustrations and rigors of getting published or how harried work and home lives leave little time or peace of mind for writing, he just kept writing to share his thoughts with his blog friends.

On some days his blog completely ignored the disease. One fine example was the delight he could take in an unexpected moment shared with some blue jays on his back deck. A simple epiphany of sorts. And when he did discuss the worsening developments on the medical front, he was able to coax a laugh out of dire situations that would simply crush less hardy spirits, like finding humor in the semantic nuances of "palliative care" or drolly boasting that he had become a veritable industry when describing the entire community of doctors, nurses, and caregivers assembled around him just to keep him going. How fitting it seems that he began his very last post, written just four days before he stopped breathing, by saying "Today I flew" in a joking reference to the hoist used at the hospital to get him into his new wheel chair.

Rumi wrote that the dead grieve not for their deaths, but for the way they lived. I do not know what griefs or grievances Barry may have taken with him. I trust they are few and light to bear, that they will not burden his flight. He is a man who has brought much love and light to his family and friends and to our blog community, where he will be dearly missed. We have been fortunate to bear witness to a life well lived, to have been fellow travellers on some of his explorations.

Lindsay on a wooded path. All photos from Barry's blog.

Barry, I'd like to think that you are still exploring ... just up the road a piece, a road that all of us will travel. Your beloved dog Lindsay will scamper up the trail after you. The rest of us will dawdle and linger a while longer on the path, so excuse us if we take our own sweet time before joining you. It is not that we don't miss you, it's just that we are so enjoying our journey here, in large part because it has been made ever richer by the likes of you.

Fly in peace ...


  1. lorenzo this is a beautiful piece of writing about a beautiful man. you've recorded thoughts, feelings, and insights that express much of what all those who treasured barry's place in their lives will hold close. i'm especially grateful that you've shared what for me was barry's most extraordinary feature - the braiding of his inner strength with his joy. thankyou. steven

  2. this makes me cry.

    your tribute leaves me with nothing to add,
    I mourn the loss of your Barry, the absence of his living in the blog world, and his real world.
    But I rejoice that there are still people that truly live each day as gift.
    there is hope in that. I would think he held hope always.

  3. beautiful tribute lorenzo...barry touched so many lives as we read his words...i rang that bell as well...and still hear it ring for a dear friend just a bit up the road. smiles.

  4. A beautiful tribute to Barry, Lorenzo, and a thoughtful meditation on friendship and death. I did not know Barry, but he apparent touched many hearts. All who cared for him will surely appreciate your kind and beautiful words.

  5. I'll always think of Barry when I ring that big old manor bell.

  6. lorenzo--a wonderful tribute to a wonderful man-thank you for putting into words what is in many hearts..c

  7. Didn't know Barry, save for your mentions of him. Excellent tribute, LLL.

    One can only hope they're spoken of this way after they go. Very lovely.

  8. Lorenzo, thank you for putting into such beautiful words this tribute to Barry.

    I came late to Barry's blog but I too was impressed by his courage, friendliness and the generosity of his spirit along with his wonderful ability to write.

    It highlights to me yet again the amazing capacity of the blogosphere - despite all its so-called virtual qualities - to travel across all aspects of our lives, all the ages and stages, from birth through to death.

    There are many tributes to Barry emerging throughout the blogosphere.

    They help us, Barry's fellow bloggers, and his family I imagine, to bear the burden of this loss.

    Your tribute is remarkable. It says almost as much about you, I think, as it says about Barry - two generous, articulate, modest and loving men.

    Thank you.

  9. I did not know Barry but it speaks volumes about the man that he has received such wonderful endorsements of his blogging exploits from yourself and Ruth over at sync-ro-nizing

  10. Bless you for this.

    I stopped and read your bell chiming post, after you had just met Barry, and I'm touched by the lovely, simple thanks you gave him, for not going through that experience alone.

    The mourning curve, as you expressed it with such insight, for getting up higher to see the terrain of a person's life, is such a beautiful way to think of this time of grief. I felt it yesterday as I responded to comments about Barry, and it felt like a wake, sitting on my laptop, reminiscing about Barry’s posts. I've never heard a finer eulogy, and it is utterly appropriate and full and rich to read such sentiments here, in your blog, about a blog friend. You have spoken why this is important, how we can witness a life, and a death, at a distance, yet heartbreakingly close all the same. It matters.

    Those times when Barry attended to the mysteries and beauties around him, ignoring his disease, he showed us that he got it, the slowing down part and understanding what is truly important in life. As my friend Inge said about her cancer diagnosis, It’s a cosmic two-by-four. Suddenly everything stills, and epiphanies are at hand.

    I so love the photos you dug for, they are precious. Thank you, Lorenzo, for a caring, reflective, full and thorough appreciation of our friend. I hope Linda will see it.

  11. Art Pepper is a soulful way to end your post about a man whom everyone seemed to love and admire. I wasn't a follower so I missed his writing but I'm inspired by people like you and Ruth and Brian to go back to his blog now. Thank you.

  12. Oh Lorenzo - what a tender essay of love and appreciation for a gentle giant of a man. You captured the essence of Barry that shimmered through his blog.

    After reading your words, I had to simply sit, remember, appreciate and marvel at a life so well lived.

    Memorializing Barry in this way comforts those of us who grieve, and in a way makes up for the fact that we cannot honour him by our attendance at the service Linda has arranged for his send off. I do hope she will read your heartfelt eulogy.

    Your description of life, death, mourning as a jagged mount we must all navigate - intimating how each death we grieve helps prepare us for our own - was as beautiful and wise as any I have ever read. Apart from his friendship and beautifully-faceted self, Barry gave us the unique opportunity to consider and prepare for our own demise as he allowed us to witness his. We could not have a better model of embracing one's fate with equanimity and dignity.

    Barry would have loved this tribute Lorenzo.

  13. Eloquent and profoundly moving and poignant writing. I did not know Barry but will visit his site and leave his wife and Barry one last comment.

    'Some where over the rainbow' is a perfect choice. Also happens to be a favorite of mine --

    Take care dear blog friend, you are a most compassionate man.


  14. Thanks so much to everyone for all the beautiful comments. I will be away from home and internet for the next few days and will try to get back to all of you individually on my return. Barry always has a way of bring bloggers together, doesn't he? I think the best way to remember and honor him is to keep reading and rereading his blogs and, of course, to hold our loved ones tight.


  15. thank you for such a warm and tender rememberance post. i had no read his words before. i just finished reading his blue jay story, goosebumps and tears filled my eyes. we lost a gifted writer and blogger, but heaven gained one.

    tearful smiles,

  16. "Just up the road a piece" -- Lorenzo, your words are a fitting tribute to Barry.

  17. This was just lovely - a beautiful tribute & a beautifully written essay. I especially like the part where you acknowledge that we feel cheated. So often we try to bury that honest, "What the HECK God?" question - but it's better to just own up & then move on. Thanks for that.

  18. Lorenzo, this is really very poignant. It makes me think about SO many people I've "met" and come to really care about, through the blogging community. It's an amazing notion that we can honestly care so strongly about people we have never and may never meet in reality, but we do come to know them in the blogging world. This is so beautifully written, and it's a wonderful tribute to Barry.

  19. Let us be silent than,before the bell rings for your friend and other friends that went there where we are going to.Tender and wonderful tribute to Barry,Lorenzo!

  20. I did not know Barry, but the connections to others in blogland I get. How sweet of you to do this.

  21. I am so sorry, Lorenzo. Barry sounds like an amazing person who has touched many lives, and I wish I had known him. I've been checking out his blog, and it is wonderful.

    I lost a blog friend last year to cancer, and it was a big blow to his family and the community. One positive thing is that he still lives on in many hearts, as well as in the beautiful stories he gave us. He also has many new fans, even after he passed away. I have a feeling the same thing will happen with Barry. Special people always live on.

    Ringing the bell is awesome. Your tribute to Barry is beautiful. Thank you very much for sharing him here.

  22. I didn't know Barry or visit his blog but this is without doubt one of the most wonderful and moving eulogies I've ever read

  23. Truly, Lorenzo, you have written so well about Barry, my very first blogging friend. You know I still do miss him and from time to time I re-visit his blog just as though it were a well-worn book on my shelf.

  24. Truly, Lorenzo, you have written so well about Barry, my very first blogging friend. I still miss him and from time to time I re-visit his blog, just as though it were a well-worn book on my shelf.


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