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My greatly-loved wife Barbara died in February 2014 after a siege of ovarian cancer. She was a unique soul, and I wanted to present her life fully: to describe her many unusual qualities because it is something she deserves, as many who knew and loved her would agree. There is also a larger message here: what the writer John Updike called, “Giving the mundane its beautiful due.”
One might ask, “Why write—or read—a book about this woman?” Barbara accomplished a few important things—founded a Free Clinic; co-authored a biography of Freud—but was hardly famous. In fact, she was not much known outside her circle of friends, family, and a few others. But she had a transformative influence on the small number of people who knew her intimately, and that is precisely the point.
Barbara’s impact was personal and individual. While intellectually gifted and beautiful, she lived her life by values that are no longer much in fashion. She was a devoted mother and grandmother, a loving wife, an interested and compassionate friend. Most of what Barbara did would not count as “achievements” by today’s standards. Her impact came from direct personal contact: the way she was with each person in her life and how she affected them.
The larger point of this book will be to show the value of this unusual way of living.