I may have shared an earlier draft of this poem with my patrons before. It’s gone through many revisions, many versions. I first wrote it after the death of Australian novelist, Colleen McCullough, brought an obituary that referred to her as “plain of feature, and certainly overweight”.
It put me in mind of another obituary, for honest-to-gosh rocket scientist Yvonne Brill, which had originally begun, “She made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children.”
Now People magazine has chosen to eulogize Carrie Fisher with a blow-by-blow account of the ever-changing mass of her body in a gravity well, I feel like it’s well and truly time to share this piece with the world…
How A Grateful World Remembers A Great Woman
An Obituary For Admiral Aldrich, 2077–2182
As good a pilot as any boy,
that’s what they said on base
when she was first in her class
and broke every record ever set.
Just as good as any man.
Barbara Aldrich wasn’t a looker,
but her smile lit up a room.
Devoted mother, adoring wife,
a woman who wore many hats.
Such fashionable hats, at that!
Humanity will long remember
her tremendous achievements,
but can any of them compare
to a really top-notch lasagna?
Her mother’s recipe, we’re sure.
She revolutionized the hyperdrive,
every spare moment spent tinkering,
fixing problems that eluded experts
with a bobby pin or something.
Chalk it up to female intuition.
Some sacrifices echo forever.
Years supporting her husband.
Hours awake with sick babies.
That one-way mission to Vega.
Wednesday nights with the PTA.
First grandmother to lead Earth Defense.
We were surprised, but not for long.
Who was more qualified?
Who was more capable?
She had eleven tiny grandbabies to fight for, after all.
Then the Vegans came, strange, menacing,
hovering in our skies like strange gray flies.
Suddenly Earth Defense wasn’t hypothetical.
We thought it was over. We thought it was war.
But women always prefer talking to fighting, don’t they?
While doubters cried for her to step down,
men cried for something to be done,
Barbara kept a calm head, a steady hand
on the wheel, steering peace talks.
Nothing like a woman’s touch to keep things running smoothly.
She made sense of their strange ways,
which some said were disrespectful, ungodly
to use an outdated if fitting phrase.
A man might not have borne their insults.
Those Vegans sure don’t know how to treat a lady, but she took no offense.
Then they left, and she left with them,
to do for them what she had done for us,
to solve their problems and make a peace,
be an ambassador for all mankind.
After all those years, she was still looking out for her babies, wasn’t she?
She put on a brave face for us, our Barb.
Told the world her children were grown
and theirs were, too, and it was time for her
to have one last, grand adventure out among the stars.
She must have missed us all so terribly.
The first woman to live among another species.
We can’t know what it was like for her,
can’t even imagine what she went through
all alone, so far from family and hearth.
We have only her own words, her journals, her messages home to go by.
Admiral Barbara Aldrich died last week,
on a lonely rock orbiting a distant star,
so far from the world that loved her so.
She was one hundred and five years old.
And she didn’t look a day over ninety.
We mourn her passing.
We celebrate her life.
We recognize her great achievements:
her dozens of living descendants.
We will miss her, we’re certain,
even more than she missed us.