I knew one kind-hearted, patient, compassionate, and helpful pirate. His name was Barry Corbran. As a pirate, he stole only two hearts. One belonged to his first wife Malinda, and the other was mine. Here is part of their story.
I watched Barry as he covered Malinda’s legs with a small blanket, tucking it into the sides of the wheelchair. During church suppers, he wiped her face when she was done eating, and sometimes had to feed her, too. During the times when she couldn’t walk, Barry carried her in and out of the bathrooms when they weren’t large enough for a wheelchair. He tended to her every need, as much as possible. When he had to go to work so the bills could be paid, he made sure there was someone else at the house. He did all of this and more because he loved Malinda. They were both devastated when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor in Sept 2001. Barry was by her side through each chemo treatment and even a hip replacement during her remaining three years.
During their journey, they kept their faith in God, attended church, and was always positive and upbeat in front of others. You wouldn’t have known how much pain she was in, because she smiled and praised God for His love and care. Things may have been different at home (though when Barry was dying, we stayed positive at home as well.) The whole church rallied behind them, providing food, clothing, money, and plenty of prayers. We all prayed for a miracle – for a complete healing.
Barry shared with me after we were married about how hard it was to keep the not-so-good news from both Malinda and the girls. He said it would only upset them and there wasn’t anything they could do about it. He confided in me how hard it was to play the role of both mom and dad, as Malinda’s personality and mannerisms changed from the treatments. Some of the drugs took away her ability to do simple things around the house or then she became forgetful. And he shared how the intimacy between them faded away due to the chemo. Barry admitted that was one of the toughest things. (I second that. I found it hard to go from being intimate on a regular basis to none at all, as he was dying. That’s when my heart really began to break.)
Malinda was loved – by Barry and their girls, along with many from the church.
Part of Malinda’s story is written in this blog How to Create Simple Albums That Will Last a Lifetime.
Malinda appeared strong for the most part, but there were moments when I witnessed her tears. During a visit at her house, she cried as she spoke about missing proms, boyfriends, weddings, grandchildren, and family vacations. I could only hug her in return. I didn’t know what to say. If I had even a clue that I would be married to her Barry one day, I could have told her not to worry because I would be a substitute for her. Being married to Barry was nowhere on my radar or in my thoughts or dreams. All I could do was to tell her that she would meet them all in heaven one day. Then I gave her another hug. I felt sad. I couldn’t imagine what that would be like, knowing your life was going to end soon.
God works in mysterious ways
On May 19, 2004, I was watching my daughter Sarah’s softball game. My oldest daughter Amy came running up to me, “Mom, they took Malinda to the hospital. You have to go find the girls and be with them. Please, they’re going to need you there.” (I had been the children’s minister at their church, so the girls knew me. It was the best thing to do – to be there to support them.)
Forty-five minutes later, I arrived at the hospital and found Barry standing beside Malinda who was laying on a gurney in the emergency room. She was almost non-responsive. She couldn’t talk and only looked around the room with her eyes.
I don’t remember if I even hugged him when I walked in and asked, “Where are the girls?”
“They are at a school concert. They don’t know anything. I didn’t want to ruin their chance of singing in the concert. Their grandparents will bring them up here afterwards. The doctor is sending Malinda down to Pittsburgh in the life flight (helicopter), but I don’t want the girls to stay with their grandparents; they smoke and it just isn’t a good place for them right now.”
“I can stay with them. My ex-husband is in town, so he can stay with Sarah.”
“That would be great. Then they can go to school tomorrow.”
“Do you think they’ll want to go? I can stay home with them, too. That’s no problem. I will stay at your house.”
When the girls appeared in the room, they swarmed their momma with hugs and kisses. I knew it was especially hard on their youngest – as it was Jenny’s 9th birthday that day. She would never forget that. (The following years, we always made sure we made that day extra special to try to cover up that bad memory.)
God is always there – through the joy and through the pain
So I stayed with the girls for two nights. Barry brought Malinda home on the Friday. He asked me to make sure the girls were out of the house when they arrived. When we came in from the garage, we saw two other women from the church (they had helped bring Malinda home). We then saw Malinda laying under the covers on her bed. The girls went in and hugged on her.
Suddenly, there were cries and screams within the walls. Barry had told the girls that their momma wasn’t going to get better. (I know now how hard that must have been, as I had to tell his girls about him dying.) He told them that their momma came home to die. There wasn’t anything more the doctors could do. I followed Jenny and Heather into their room and hugged them the best I could. Barry was with Alicia in her room. There were no words, just tears.
God keeps his promises
Then a rainbow appeared out the front door, across the street. We stood on the porch and praised God for his continued promise to take care of us. Even in the sad times, God was there.
I came back and visited a couple other times over the weekend. One time I took a picture of the family together on the bed. And I sang hymns with the girls, as that was something Malinda loved. (The girls and I sang for Barry as well, during his last days.) This was a new experience for me, being around someone who was dying. I didn’t know it was preparing me for when my parents would die, and then Barry.
On Wednesday, May 26, I got the call that Malinda died. Ironically, it was my birthday. My son Mike and I stopped at Barry’s house on the way to Erie. We hugged him. Barry asked if I could help put the photo board together with the girls. “Sure, I’ll come back tomorrow.” He must have been pretending well, for I now know what it’s like to lose a spouse – the jabbing pain in your heart is so unbearable. But that’s another story for another day.
Malinda and Barry had been married one week shy of 20 years, and at the time of her death their girls were 9, 14, & 16. The girls only knew PA as their home, but Barry and Malinda lived a short time in NC (Alicia was born there, I think). When Barry looked into buying their first house in Venango, he had been to the bank to sign up for this first credit card. He asked what the limit was, took out the $500, and used it as a down payment on the house. The very same one Malinda died in, 10 years later.
We all have a story to tell. I wish I knew more of their story – for the girls’ sake. Hopefully, other family members have been sharing bits and pieces over the years. Now it’s been 13 years since Malinda died. She did miss a few proms, graduations, a wedding, and the birth of two granddaughters. But she will meet them someday in heaven, and hear all about it. Malinda’s friendship was a blessing to me, as well as her children.
Part Two of the Life and Times of Barry Corbran will be the beginning of our story – coming soon.
Hint: Barry always said he loved hearing this story, and the one of why I started hunting.