Mike and Barbara

2012 photos and tenants rights 042

posted by Lauren

Saturday morning, Lindsey and I got a call from our friend Will who told us that Barbara, someone we have loved and worked with for a year and a half, had suddenly passed away. She has struggled with tremendous health problems for years and she stopped breathing and couldn’t be resuscitated. She and her husband Mike were on the waiting list for Section 8 housing, but that wait was too long.

We met Mike and Barbara when we first started meeting the tenants at Lexington Gardens, a substandard apartment complex in Madison (as you may remember from a previous post). We were working with them to advocate for safe and dignified housing. Mike and Barbara’s apartment, crawling with bugs and black mold, was especially problematic for Barbara who had to use a breathing machine every night. She was bound to her wheelchair because her right leg was amputated, but her landlord refused to provide her with a ramp so she had to scoot and climb up and down the steps anytime she had to leave the apartment. On several occasions, her leg became infected from the wounds she received while scooting up and down the steps. Mike came to all of our meetings. Out of all the tenants they were a couple that had the most to lose if their landlord retaliated, but they were determined to fight for their dignity and that of the other tenants.

BarbaraBut here is something I’m still trying to understand: while the paramedics were pronouncing the death of his wife, Mike called Will, his lawyer, who instructed him to call us, his outreach workers. And when the funeral directors came to take Barbara’s body away and as the shock began to subside into waves of grief, his lawyer and outreach workers were the ones to hold him and pray with him. These are the moments in life where we reach out to our families and closest friends, right? And yet, it occurs to me that maybe our family and our friends are the people who fight with us the hardest when things get tough. On one hand, I felt so sad that Mike could have been standing alone in those moments, and on the other, I felt so grateful that we had all found each other and fought together so that we had the honor to share in Barbara’s life and make sure that Mike was surrounded by family in that moment. I am so thankful to say that we belong to Mike and Barbara and they belong to us.

So friends, one of our own is hurting, and he is trying to figure out a way to bury his wife with the dignity and honor she deserved in life, but often didn’t get. Mike has worked so hard to provide for her, but even with a full-time job is drowning in unpaid bills. He was trying to set aside money for their final arrangements, but he cannot afford even the most basic burial arrangements. In short, we have to raise $2,500 by tomorrow to give Ms. Barbara a service worthy of her beautiful life. Anything you can give to help Mike with these costs would be deeply appreciated. If you’d like to donate, you donate to Open Table Nashville here and specify that you would like your gift to go toward funeral costs (or email lauren@opentablenashville.org with the amount you donated and we’ll make sure it goes toward funeral arrangements tomorrow).

Barbara is survived by her husband Mike, a son and 2 daughters, her brother and sister, and her dog, Stewie. Please also send warm thoughts and prayers for Mike who loved Barbara well and fought for her with all his heart and might.

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