As last conversations go, I will always remember mine with Becky.


by Karen Topakian

My last conversation with Becky Tarbotton took place in the early afternoon of Thursday, Nov 29. I can almost remember it verbatim.

We had bumped into each other at SFO and decided to ride into the city together on BART. We toyed with sharing a taxi. But decided that as good environmentalists, we’d take public transit.

I’m so glad we did.

On that 30-minute ride, Becky told me about her latest personal achievements and RAN’s latest environmental victories. I told her about my work with Greenpeace.

After we dispensed with shoptalk, we somehone slipped into discussing our personal lives. Something we had never done before.

We talked about our mothers’ need to fill silence even when instructed not to. (Becky said her mother initiated a conversation with a casual carpool driver, a big no-no, even though Becky had instructed her not to do so. I told her my mother thought it was rude to share a meal with someone at a silent meditation retreat and not speak.)

About our partners’ need for quiet at home, which we both struggled to uphold. And their shared desire not to process every aspect of life, verbally.

About our confidence that our partners would not care to hear about our collective shared traits nor a replay of this conversation. (Sorry Becky, I hope you’ll forgive me for sharing it here.) Then we laughed.

About our lives as activists – balancing the work with the pleasure.

About the holiday season – her plans to change this year’s family traditions in the wake of her father’s recent death. And my family’s strict adherence to family traditions in the wake of my father and grandparents’ deaths.

About our mutual friends and colleagues – Nancy Johnson and Phil Radford.

And the end of the half hour ride, we vowed to see each other again, by design not be happenstance.

When I exited the train at 16th Street, I turned back to look at her and wave. Becky didn’t look back. She had slipped back into work mode. Cell phone in hand. Fingers flying across the keyboard.



About Karen Topakian

After more than 30 years of working in social justice organizations, I'm taking a break to write. My most recent employment - Executive Director of the Agape Foundation, just ended on March 31. My work history includes a variety of jobs from Greenpeace nuclear disarmament campaigner to cooking for a multi-millionaire.
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3 Responses to As last conversations go, I will always remember mine with Becky.

  1. Thank you for this, Karen. I lovely tribute to a remarkable person. And you’re no slouch either 😉

  2. John A. Knox says:

    Beautiful bittersweet recollection. Thanks, Karen.

  3. Anne Jenkins says:

    Beautiful, Karen. I’m so sorry you won’t be having more conversations with Becky.

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