In memory of Barbara R. “Bullet” Moran
June 7, 1960 to February 6, 2012
My name is Thomas Richmond Overton. I am the oldest of the group that will be referred to with affection as “the cousins”. Barbara Richmond Moran was the youngest of the six children – five daughters and one son – of John and Janet Richmond. While 16 years separated her and my mother, only 9 years separated Barb and me, which meant that she and her brother Bill were in many ways more like big sister and brother to my brother Kurt and me than anything else. That combined with the fact that Kurt and I spent two to three weeks each summer for many years while we were growing up living with her, Bill, and our grandparents at the family cottage led to a very unique and special relationship.
Of course, she wasn’t Barb to us or to many within the family – she was Bullet – Aunt Bullet – my son Jonathan asked me the other night how she got that nickname -- many of you know that she earned it by setting a 100-yard dash record at South Jeff that stood for more than 20 years.
When Dave called me Monday afternoon and asked if I would do this today, I wondered – “where do you even start?” After spending much of the week reflecting on her and what she meant to me and what I know she meant to everyone else in the family and everyone else whose lives she touched, I realized that she was quite simply “the best” person that any of us knew. She was that unique person whose love and caring brought out the best in the rest of us.
So what in the world do you say about that person who was “the best”?
The first thing that comes to mind is that Bullet had a capacity to love and care for others that was seemingly infinite – an endless supply. That extended from her parents to her siblings to her nieces and nephews to her friends to her fellow teachers to her students to her stepsons, and especially to her beloved husband Dave – more on him later.
And when I say love, I don’t mean just any kind of love, I mean that deep, no fooling around kind of love that let you know that you were TRULY special and important to her – that love was total, unequivocal, and unconditional. And we loved her right back, just as much. With that love came lots of affectionate nicknames – I won’t name them all, but they included nicknames like Ellie, Fish, Skin, Guy, Oak, Kurtie or Curtains, Critter (OK, some of them still sort of fit), Vern, Cumquat, Lukey, Peanut, Bubba, Ry, and of course Morany. As for the cousins, we weren’t her nieces and nephews – we were her “babies” – even as we became 30 and 40 year old “babies”. And as we started having babies of our own, she always wanted us to “take care of her babies” for her. I can’t tell you how many of our phone conversations over the past several years ended with her telling me to “take care of her babies”. With Barb, it was always about others and what she could do for them.
We knew that Barb deeply touched all of us within the family, but one of the things that has been amazing for us to see are all of the other people who she clearly touched – friends, fellow teachers, students – a number of the former students who came to the funeral home yesterday told Dave just how much she had influenced their lives and been a mentor to them – their favorite teacher. Barb and Bullet had that remarkable gift of not just being able to develop friendships, but to develop relationships that were special and truly touched people.
Second, she loved life and loved living. Just like her love and care for others, I don’t mean just any kind of love for life, but she LOVED LIFE – and it didn’t need to be complicated. Whether that was her annual tradition of baking Christmas cookies with Aunt Say and others, frequent trips with Dave to take their dogs to Wehle or to kayak or swim, enjoying time with family and friends at many family gatherings, or spending time with those whom she cared about. Although she certainly had a number of special experiences in her life, she had the ability to fill each and every day with lots of special things, and lot of batches of cookies!!
She could be impulsive, as exemplified when she and her friend Penny raised money for the American Lung Association Ride For America and rode their bicycles coast to coast – she only trained 30 miles before she left, which probably contributed to the huge issues with saddle sores that she had during the ride – but she never gave up – she had a goal, she was determined to accomplish it. I had forgotten until my brother Kurt reminded me that somewhere in the Midwest, we think in Illinois or Indiana, Barb hit a parked car and wrecked her bike so it was unrideable. The chase truck only had one extra bike on it...it was the chase team's 12 year old's BMX bike. Bullet was so determined to ride the whole way across country she borrowed the kid’s bike and rode 60 miles on it to finish her ride for the day.
Of course, as I was reminded by my brother and cousins this week, daily life and experiences with Aunt Bullet led to an endless supply of other anecdotes and other indications of her prowess. A small sampling of them include:
Bullet riding cross-country with Kurt in his Jeep. Bullet was in charge of bringing the tent and showed up with this tiny yellow K-Mart tent from which Kurt’s feet stuck out more than a foot. Kurt has a picture of them standing on their heads at every state line along the way.
Bullet dancing on the bar and acting like the funnest person at the Harbor Inn when she was loaded up on only her fruity waters.
Bullet painting her brothers friends, brother in laws, and fellow lifeguards toenails while they were sleeping...
Bullet walking across the dance floor at Mike Elmer’s wedding with a long strand of toilet paper stuck to her shoe.
Grandpa going over to the house that Bullet built next door and trying to take a bubble bath in the Jacuzzi tub…
Bullet starting the somersault train at Jenny and Mike's wedding.
Bullet waterskiiing like a rock star despite no cartilage in her knees and various screws and plates in her joints.
From Cousin Hunt -- Dave's house on Cagwin road had a small Woodstove that Barb used to sit on because it didn't get too warm. She came to our cottage once and tried the same on our Woodstove which was probably about 400 degrees F. .... She burned her butt :-)
There is somewhat of a theme there – when we were making one of our holiday visits to the Stone House, Bullet was leaning up against the stove in her flannel pajamas – all of a sudden there was smoke and flames as the back of her pajamas caught on fire and she demonstrated, Stop, Drop, and Roll like I have never seen it demonstrated!!
From Cousin Chris -- She never met a 33 gallon trash can of dirty laundry she couldn't handle on a weekend visit from Clarkson when my parents were still overseas. She was one of the few in the world that understood exactly how much dirty laundry could really fit in a 33 gal container.
From Cousin Sara -- There was no better place to go for a long weekend from college. The best cookies ever, all the "beauty aides" you could need, and no weekend was complete without one of her pedicures. You always left feeling completely spoiled, even if you'd stopped in unexpectedly.
From Cousin Sara -- The trumpet serenades/phone calls for every birthday and Christmas. Even with a house full of roommates.
There were many, many more….
Third, Bullet was a “Life Coach” before there was such a thing. Kurt and I experienced that first hand during our summers at the cottage as Bullet made teaching us personal hygiene one of her primary missions in life at that time. I’m even happy to report that most of those lessons stuck. Based upon comments from some of our cousins, we weren’t the only ones that she trained in making sure that we used soap and a wash cloth. As Cousin Chris said, “I still to this day would probably not know how to properly clean all my "crevices" without Aunt Bullet's expert training “. She put huge emphasis on eating right and staying physically fit and active – with excellent success for her and varying degrees of success for the rest of us, but she never, ever gave up trying to help us be better, healthier, and more physically active.
Of course, we all wondered who would be that person special enough to win her heart – who would have the capacity to accept and return that love, who would have the ability to care and be cared for, and who would be able to share her love of life, family, and friends. On a blind date, she met David Moran who would enrich her life and all of our lives. He would become her best friend, her partner, her soul mate, and her rock through the cancer that they would face together.
Now we always knew that Bullet was determined when she set her mind to a goal, but never was that determination, strength of spirit, and courage more evident than when she confronted cancer not once but twice. She was determined to beat it, both times. We were inspired by the way that she fought it. And when she was diagnosed a second time, it soon became clear that this battle was going to be tougher than the first. It seemed that the more this horrible disease grasped her physically, the stronger her will, her determination, and her strength of spirit became. We continued to see her do absolutely everything she could to stay physically strong – short weeks ago she was still taking long walks, much to her doctors amazement. She had excellent doctors, but one of her doctors who she called Dr. Sunshine based upon his lousy bedside manner told her that he had never had a patient at her stage of disease do the things that she was doing. This was the same doctor whose necktie she grabbed on an office visit, pulled him close, looked him right in the eye, and said “I’m going to live to be 100, and you’re going to help me get there!!” Last Friday, much to the surrounding nurses amazement, he gave her a hug and kiss and told them that she was his favorite patient. She finally managed to touch him too
Although cancer eventually took her physical being, it never managed to take her spirit. When it became clear last week that the physical battle had finally been lost after she had given it more fight than I think anyone else could have mustered, she shifted that same determination and singlemindedness of purpose toward her next journey.
In talking with Uncle Neil last night, he said “we kept hoping for a miracle. She deserved it. Dave deserved it.” After a brief pause, he said – “I guess we got 51 years of a miracle”.
Dave shared some thoughts with me about Barb earlier this week and I will take the liberty to share some of them with you:
- He told me that he was blessed to marry the best person he knew. She was the “Top Gun of his Life” the best of the best.
- It was her smile and the love of her family that made him fall in love with her. Her love for life spilled over into love for her friends and students. Her interactions with people would always make them feel better about themselves.
- She was the most courageous person we know. An inspiration to all. Never complained. A person would never know she was fighting cancer. Friends and family did not have to keep her upbeat and positive; just the opposite, she was the one who kept us strong.
- When Barb walked into a room, it always became brighter. Knowing Barb and being around her made you want to be a better person.
- Barb and Dave would quite often say the following bedtime prayer out loud; “Dear God, thank you for bringing us together; for our Love and Marriage. We ask that our Love and Marriage continue to grow each day. That we are always best friends, intimate lovers, partners in life, soul mates forever.”
Dave asked me to focus on her love for her Mom and Dad, Sisters and Brother, Nieces and Nephews, and Stepsons, and that he thought that her love for him was about the same as that for her dogs – Not true!!
I also wondered what Bullet would make of all of the events of this week. First, I think that she would be uncomfortable with all of the attention and fuss – she would look us right in the eyes and say “allright – quit worrying about me!!”.
Bullet’s rules for life for us to live by:
Live life to the fullest of your ability – don’t take any day for granted. Even the activities of daily life are precious – make sure that you cherish them.
When confronted with a challenge, maintain a positive outlook and don’t EVER give up.
Stay physically active and fit – remember of the physical by the physical for the physical.
Practice excellent personal hygiene and always wash all of your crevices.
Don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself.
Always look for the good in others and think of others before yourself.
Hold your family and friends close and make sure that they know that you love them.
So how in the world do we say goodbye, at least for now, to that person who was simply “the best”?
First, we love you – totally, unequivocally, and unconditionally.
Second, we miss you -- now and for the rest of our lives. We will miss your smile, your laugh, your sense of humor, your love and your care.
Finally, we celebrate you – for being such a cherished part of our lives and for helping all of us to become better people.
Barb and Bullet, may you rest in peace – until we meet again.