Our new editor at The Townships Sun, Rachel Garber thought it would be a great idea if I wrote about our late editor Barbara Heath. Normally it would be an easy task for me, but in this case I had never met Barbara. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t know her– but in reality, we knew each other. They say to have a close friendship you need to meet each other first which helps strengthen the bond. Barbara and I did not need that, as we easily exchanged over a 100 emails between each other and felt like long lost sisters.
I first met Barbara years ago when she emailed me about a story I did about the rumoured 30-foot- long monster called Gog, Manaloo, Memphre, the Anaconda, or the Lake Monster of Lake Memphremagog. Somehow she had seen it on Facebook and asked if the Townships Sun could run it. Since I had spent the first night of my honeymoon looking out the motel window which faced Lake Memphremagog searching for that creature; it was a story that was near and dear to my heart.
And so, as they say, began the online friendship of Linda and Barbara. I had been writing for years in the States for publications about celebrities, murders and pets and she assured me that history was my thing and she was right. She encouraged me to keep writing with my heart, and to pursue my potential. It’s not like I needed anyone to encourage my prolific writing, but even though we were the same age, it was like someone putting their arm around you. It was always that way between us. She represented a part of my self-identity.
We both believed in saving heritage like the Tomifobia church which is a short distance from Stanstead, Quebec. The poor wee church was sold and abandoned for years and it left a mark on both of our hearts. She was a fighter like myself and we both stood up for the wrongs in our communities. Barbara with the closing of the CIBC in Stanstead and me with stormwater management ponds and supporting local business. It doesn’t matter how slowly we now moved along, we just had to make sure we didn’t stop. Neither of us kept our feelings in a drawer to be forgotten.
I am heartbroken and I should have known her health wasn’t getting better. In March she sent me two beautiful jewellery artifacts that belonged to her mother. She said in a letter,
“I hope they bring you joy and show your spirit. You are certainly a valuable member of the Sun Family.”
Barbara did not wish to have any services, like myself. We both had figured out that lots of things happen after you die and none of them involve the deceased. I had told Barbara that when I die, cremate me and stick a tree on me. I wanted absolutely no headstones so these genealogists I have been writing about for years will come looking for me. She always thought that was funny.
We never met, yet we knew each other well, almost like we were friends before,
We never met, but we both grew up in the Eastern Townships and loved and breathed history,
We never met, but you sent me letters from those that enjoyed my writing in the Townships Sun and told me never to stop writing.
We never met, but you were a friend and a mentor, and for that I will be eternally grateful and never ever forget you.
I wish there was email in heaven.