Updated: Jul 8, 2020
It is with shock and grief that I write this tribute to a dear friend and colleague, Barbara Anne Neighbors Deal, who died on the morning of July 4th in Eldoret, Kenya. She experienced cardiac arrest, while in recovery from surgery in Eldoret in mid-June for a perforated intestine and septic shock.
In her last days she was lovingly looked after by dear friends (both long-time and new friends) Samuel and Rhoda Teimuge, Gloria Teimuge, Naomi Ayot, and Amy Rogers. We know so many around the world were praying for her and she was so grateful for the prayer support. I’m also so grateful for support from Diana Halpenny, SIA Board President, and Judi Ramsey, Barbara’s friend in Crescent City and her medical power of attorney.
Barbara with friends of 30+ years, Samuel and Rhoda Teimuge.
For three weeks this summer I had the immense pleasure and honor to travel around Uganda and Kenya with Barbara for Spirit in Action. She was a SIA Board Members since 2016 and an Advisory Board Member for many years before then.
I left Barbara in good health on June 13 and flew to Nairobi and then Malawi to continue with my SIA work. Then I flew back to Kenya two weeks ago to be with Barbara after her surgery. I got to spend precious hours with her, holding her hand, and singing, “Oh Barbara, celebrate Barbara.”
Taking a coffee break with Dennis Kiprop after a full day (and full three weeks) of site visits for Spirit in Action.
I am now back in Kenya to help with logistics and to spread her ashes, as she requested, on the beautiful farm of Samuel and Rhoda Teimuge in Eldoret. There will be memorial services in Crescent City and Sacramento in August/September.
Barbara was so delighted to be on this trip with me, returning to Africa 20 years after she was last here with her beloved Bob. She was diligent in her physical therapy all last year and was strong enough to walk up and down so many flights of stairs in Uganda, and all over farms in Kenya and Uganda. Everywhere we went she was recognized as an elder, a woman of wisdom and experience. She chuckled, telling me how much she was enjoying “playing the grandma card” and dispensing wisdom and encouragement to all we met.
Spiritual sisters, Barbara and Naomi of Uganda. Naomi was with Barbara during her last days on earth.
We spent a memorable night in a thatched hut in a very rural village in Uganda, which she was positively thrilled about, even when rain started leaking onto our faces in the middle of the night! She knew how to be so tactful when the situation required, and asked brilliant questions, and held my hand as we left Toronto and I was scared of a plane crash.
In front of our thatched roof “hotel” in Uganda 🙂
She gave me so many hugs, and laughed with me when we were beyond tired and giddy from excitement about all the positive change we were seeing as a result of SIA’s partnerships. She understood my goals for SIA perfectly and was such an encourager and mentor for me in all aspects of my work.
When I saw her in the ICU in Eldoret two weeks ago I told her that two years ago I had made a promise to myself that when she was sick and nearing her time, I would be there for her. Childless women don’t have default caregivers and so it has been such a blessing to be able to fulfill that commitment and be with her, as time and geography allowed.
Two friends, in an Eldoret Hospital, June 24
Barbara was a true spiritual mentor to me, always reminding me of the strength and freedom that can be found when we are full in the flow of the universe and perfectly in tune with God. When I was going through a hard time, she encouraged me daily. I saved these words of wisdom from her, which I refer back to regularly. It feels appropriate to share them with all of you, in this hard time of shock, grief, disbelief, mourning, and figuring how we’re going to continue on without her physical presence.
“It goes against all our conditioning, but life certainly becomes easier, particularly emotionally, if we replace hopes and expectations with radical openness and radiant acquiesce; trusting that because God is love, and love is a principle and not an emotion, we can trust that Principle to order our lives for our highest good. There can be no disappointment if we have no appointments 😉 It requires the deepest “letting” — letting things unfold — and that requires the deepest of trusting…
Be in peace, my dearest friend. I will miss you immeasurably. I am forever grateful for you in my life and the love and wisdom you shared with me.