Sunday, October 11, 2015

Barbara Kerns Johnson – What a Woman, What a Life by Margo Hoornstra


“The Paper Burns, But The Words Fly Away” – Ben Joseph Akiba
You’ve heard the term – ‘You look like you’ve lost your best friend.’ A sort of universal acknowledgement to denote unspeakable devastation, failure or loss. A couple of months ago, I literally lost my best friend. One woman, outside of my family, who meant the world to me.
Barbara Kerns Johnson and I met at a writer’s conference many years ago. Two strangers with the love of words in common, who went on to become inseparable friends despite our differences. While I’m a worrier tried and true, Barb was the exact opposite. She could have been the inspiration for the song – Don’t Worry Be Happy – and knowing her, she probably was. As time went on, we worked together, collaborated together, traveled together, enjoyed life together. That’s not say she didn’t drive me crazy at times. I’m sure she’d tell you I returned the favor and then some.
That bond, craziness and all, extended to my family as well. Barb was almost as a good a friend of my husband, Ron, as she was to me. I’m pretty sure part of that had to do with the fact they were both Libras. She never had any kids of her own, but readily adopted the four we had. That she was a big influence in my children’s lives is something I’m extremely proud of. Her presence was a precious gift I was able to give them, one that came with plenty of memories I hope they will always have to cherish.
An innovator, a writer’s writer if you will, she did get around in our local literary realm. It was Barb who initially introduced me to Romance Writers of America and pushed me to establish a local chapter. Over the years, she also introduced me to many local writers who had gained national fame. Among them William Kinzel and Elmore (Dutch) Leonard. Though never published herself beyond a number of freelance articles and ghost written pieces, it seemed to be her lot in life to help other writers succeed. She taught college level creative writing classes, published a newsletter for writers – Not So Neophyte – and later the magazine Working Writer, and held writing conferences around Michigan. She even tried her hand as a literary agent for a time. Besides writing, her other passion was art—painting, sketching, still life, portraits—and she was very good at that too.
In many ways Barbie, as we liked to call her, had an Energizer Bunny type spirit. No matter what happened, good bad or indifferent, she kept on keeping on. More times than not with a smile on her face and laughter in her heart. Maybe that’s why I didn’t realize how seriously ill she was. What little time we had left to be friends.
She was very sensitive about her age. Understandable since she looked much younger than she was. I won’t dishonor her memory by sharing the actual number now. Let’s just say, given the marvels of modern medicine, she was way too young to die.
Today, October the 11th is/was her birthday. A true believer in karma, unicorns and the like, Barb also had faith in the incredible power of the universe in our lives. Lord Willing was one of her favorite sayings. I’m pretty sure she would agree this post is appropriate, since the 11th is my day to blog here anyway.
I’m smiling through tears as I think of Barb Johnson. How much I miss her. How grateful I am that, while she was here, I was blessed to be her friend.

My days to blog here are the 11th and 23rd. For more about me and my stories, please visit my website

27 comments:

Leah St. James said...

Oh, Margo. I'm so very sorry. Your tribute is beautiful. As I read, I felt as if I knew her, just a little. I'm sure your friendship was as precious to her, and I pray that you will always be able to hang on to those happy memories, even through the tears.

Maris said...

I've known Barb primarily through you and the events all three of us attended over the years. Your tribute is spot on. She always had a smile and an upbeat way of looking at life. As you said, it was way too soon for her to leave us. She will live in our memories, but I wish she were still around so we could laugh at life together.

Maureen said...

What a beautiful post, it helped us all to know Barb as you do and for her memory to live on.

Jannine Gallant said...

A lovely, lovely tribute to your friend. Hoping you'll remember her with a smile on her birthday.

Melissa Keir said...

What a wonderful tribute to your friend. I'm sorry for your loss but I'm sure she's always going to be on your shoulder!

Kara said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. This is a beautiful tribute to her. We are fortunate when we have those people in our lives who affect us in ways we never thought possible. Prayers for you and your sweet friend.

Vonnie Davis ~ Romance Author said...

Yes, you were very fortunate to have her as a friend. She sounds like a doll. And she was lucky to have YOU, too. True friendships go both ways. I'm sorry you've lost her, but the precious memories live on. Hugs.

wryterinwonderland said...

Beautiful, Margo. I knew her when she first came into MMRWA, and as you say, she always had a ready smile. I never heard her complain about anything. Her physical shell is gone, but she's still hovering around you, keeping that friendship intact.

Diane Garner said...

You sound like you're as good a friend as Barb was. So sorry for your loss.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Thank you, Leah.I'm so glad I conveyed her spirit. There are many, many happy memories.

Margo Hoornstra said...

It's nice you had the chance to know Barb too, Maris. She was a happy soul with that ready smile. I wish she were still with us too. Thanks.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Sweet words, Maureen. Such nice thoughts. You're right. She will live on in our memories.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Doing my best to smile for her, Jannine. Friends are so great to have, aren't they?

Margo Hoornstra said...

On my shoulder it is, Melissa. Thank you.

Margo Hoornstra said...

So nice of you, Kara. Appreciate the prayers.

Margo Hoornstra said...

She was pretty special, Vonnie, pretty special.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Oops. Sent too soon. Thanks for the hugs, Vonnie.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Wryterinwonderland. Another one fortunate to have met Barb. Thanks for stopping. I'm sure she's hovering somewhere around us. ;-)

Margo Hoornstra said...

Hope I was, Diane. Thank you so much for the support.

Brenda Whiteside said...

Just beautiful, Margo. I hope I have been as good a friend to someone as you were to her.

Lucy Naylor Kubash said...

Thank you for sharing this about Barb. I didn't know her well but when I would see her at retreat, she always seemed so happy. Losing a best friend is devastating. I'm sure she's celebrating her birthday in a wonderful place and thanks you for giving her this tribute.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Thanks for sharing your love for Barbie. She lives on through your words and the influences she had on so many. Said Edgar Allan Poe: "There are no words, alas, to tell, the loveliness of loving well." She did.

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

What a lovely tribute.
Praying for peace and comfort to all those who loved and mourn Barbara.
PamT

Margo Hoornstra said...

Sweet of you to say that, Brenda. Thank you. I hope I was.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Thanks, Lucy. I know you understand loss as well as I do. It's a nice thought that Barb has enjoyed this tribute. I'll carry her in my heart for always.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Beautiful thoughts, Rolynn. I'm sure Barbie would think so too. Thank you.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Pam - Prayers always welcome. Thank you. This has helped me to move on.