Some time back I dedicated a column to a special lady. It was an honor to share memories from her former cheerleaders and pay homage to the legacy she had created as an educator and a coach in Whitley County. Tonight I’ve battled to muster up the right words to honor her yet again, this time at her passing. Barbie Bunch, you deserve so much more than words.
Over the past few days I’ve gone back through my Facebook messenger and re-read messages that I had sent Barbie over the years, the last message was as recent as this past July, when we both found ourselves at Disney. For someone who had battled so much and for so long, she was always positive.
I used a T-Fal kitchen towel yesterday while cooking dinner that Barbie had bought me when I got married. Coincidentally it’s my favorite. I feel certain even when I do something as small as wipe down my kitchen countertops I’ll think of her.
Barbie was resilient and private. I think that’s something I always admired about her, she was classy. Having had the honor of being her colleague at Whitley North I'm fairly certain she never really knew how much I observed her from afar.
As awkward and inexperienced as I was as an elementary cheer coach, there was never a time she didn’t tell me how good of a job I was doing. One message I re-read over the weekend was during a time that I felt discouraged and inadequate. Barbie always knew what to say. She responded… “Erinn, you do a great job with those kids. They enjoy it, and they feel loved. That’s what matters.”
Re-reading that small gesture of support made me cry. I regret not telling her thank you more.
I told my mother earlier today that as long as Barbie’s niece Kristen was around, Barbie’s laughter would never leave us. They have the same exact laugh and many of the same mannerisms. I can close my eyes and hear them both laughing now. There’s a bittersweet comfort in that.
I find myself homesick often, today maybe more so than the day before. What a peace in knowing there’s a cheerleader in Heaven. In fact I like to think of beautiful Barbie straightening the angel’s robes, and making sure their shoulders were back.
Until we see you again, precious friend, keep cheering us on. Oh what a blessing you were to so many. I’ll see your face under the Friday night lights of a football field and I’ll hear your voice from the stands. The spirit you shared with all of us is guiding us onward even now.
Erinn Williams is originally from Williamsburg, and now resides in Owensboro, Ky. The daughter of a teacher and a preacher, she hopes to make a difference through her words. She serves as a teacher's assistant in Daviess County, and writes for two newspapers in Western Kentucky. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.