Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 2, 2003
Tarbox lived the Paschal mystery
Dying addicted, this crusader pushed life at teens
Father Mike Mireau, associate pastor at St. Theresa's parish, submitted a portion of his homily remembering the life of Barbara Tarbox to the Western Catholic Reporter.
Here is a part of Mireau's tribute:
Barb Tarbox was a devoted wife and mother, and a member of our faith community at St. Theresa's, who spearheaded a national campaign against smoking.
A victim of cancer herself, she spent the last nine months of her life speaking in schools, confronting young people with her own tragedy in the hope that they might take heed of her message, and stop smoking. Her campaign has reached over 50,000 kids from all over the country. She died May 18.
From the homily at her funeral . . .
The first time I talked to Barb, she called me on the phone back in October and asked me to help her plan a funeral.
So I said, okay, and whose funeral would this be for?
And she said, "It's for me."
I was surprised, but soon came to realize I was dealing with an extraordinary person.
When she and Pat (her husband) came to see me, I encountered a woman who was strong willed, straight forward, she meant what she said and said what she meant.
She was a woman that I could joke with. She was friendly, generous. She didn't hold back compliments. She liked to take care of people. And she also liked to get her way.
She and Pat had already experienced profound loss in their family; she had lost twins, one, little Patrick, shortly after he was born, and the other, Michael, died suddenly of heart failure at the age of eight.
I could see that these experiences taught her there was nothing more important than the love she had for her family and for her friends. But now she was dying; now she was faced with losing that which she valued the most. She had some consolation in knowing that she'd see her boys again, but she still regretted bitterly that she was leaving Pat, her husband, her daughter MacKenzie, Tracy, her best friend, and all her loved ones behind.
So in the course of our conversation, she decided she wanted to be fully initiated in the Catholic Church, which she was on Nov. 16, right here at St. Theresa's.
And we planned the readings for her funeral.
These are the readings we just heard, readings that speak to us of hope, of being reunited with our loved ones in the next life, readings that tell us not to be overcome with grief, but to encourage one another, readings that tell us "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God."
We all know of the countless thousands whose lives have been touched by Barb Tarbox over the course of the last several months.
What we have seen is Barb let God turn her into a miracle, and as a priest, I've come to firmly believe what we've seen in Barb is an image of Jesus, that her mission, her suffering, and her love, became patterned on Jesus himself.
What she was was someone who had made a mistake that would cost her her life, and take her away from her family.
But she turned her tragic and painful death into a way to speak the truth about smoking; she allowed herself to become that truth that smoking kills, that smoking strips us of our humanity, that smoking will take us away from our families.
So she put her own suffering on display, so that people, especially children, would see it, that they would be shocked and saddened by it, and they would stop smoking.
And so many have.
And in Barb, we see God turning tragedy into triumph.
This is what Easter is all about; this is what the Resurrection of our Lord is all about, it's about God taking the suffering and death of one, and from it, giving life to countless many.
It's at this time of year, the Easter season, when we celebrate life - coming from the death - of our Lord, that we see the possibility of so many saved lives coming from Barb's own death.
As for the job of continuing her mission, that job belongs - to the rest of us.
Next Sunday, we celebrate the feast of the Ascension of our Lord, when Jesus went back up to heaven to his Father; his disciples, his friends who were left, were sad to see him go, but he had to do it.
He had to do it so that they could continue his work.
God has called Barb to his kingdom, and again, patterned on Jesus, has left her work to us. Now it's our job to continue to pass on her message.
So I'm willing to stand here and stake my reputation as a priest on my conviction that what we have witnessed in Barb - is a miracle, it's God showing up in our lives, bringing triumph out of tragedy, bringing life out of death. Barb spent the last nine months of her life living the Paschal mystery.
She has become an image, an imitation of Christ. Of course she didn't do it deliberately, she didn't say, "Okay, now I'm gonna make myself an image of Christ."
She was far too humble to do a thing like that. All she did was love, love her family, love all the children she saw, loved them to the end, and God took care of the rest.
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