An Op Ed for The New York Times
Barbara Walters was closer to me than my own family and my friends. We spent almost thirty years together walking and talking as we hiked through Central Park almost on a daily basis.
We discussed everything for almost three decades. Our conversations included everything from babies being born to “Is heaven for real”, when you die?
Today’s article is devoted to as I like to call her “ My Barbara”, as I promised her that I would tell her true inspiring story which is being released by her one year anniversary in heaven, December 30 th 2024.
By Your Side, A Walk In The Park with Barbara Walters is the beautiful inner story that only the person would know who walked in the park with her almost daily for thirty years. That person was me.
As I walk in the park today by myself, I reflect back on all the stories and lessons I learned from the world’s most legendary journalist.
The one story that was reiterated over and over again by the two of us was the question, “ Is heaven for real”, and how do we really believe in this theory.
Barbara was eager to do a special with his holiness the Dali Lama to explore this theory.
It was a beautiful TV special , but the truth is it did not budge her belief in heaven at all.
We always debated back and forth as I was always the YES in her NO!
So here was our collaborative theory,” Who was ever to pass the pearly gates first would show a sign of relevance by helping the other one left behind with their purpose driven work. “
Barbara admired and humbly speaking , loved the fact that I was her young mentee full of hope and belief. As she always said to me, “ Do not let aging and disappointments stop you from being your best self and stop you from serving humanity.”
As Barbara stated in her news piece about me and my work , “ Christine Grimaldi is a saint. She is always the one there to help out others in need without asking for anything in return.”
We are approaching the holiday season and Barbara always had what she called, “ Her gift closet” items ready for me to bring to the hospital for all the kids suffering from the devastating effects of cancer. It was always a beautiful box of gifts they could choose from.
It became an ongoing funny conversation for the two of us each and every holiday. As you read her memoir you will see her inner story like the one I am telling you today.
Barbara had so many gifts always ready for me to give to children in need. This continuous gift giving lasted three decades.
To the point where I took the name the giftroomfoundation.org in honor of Barbara Walters.
Barbara always said, “I know what your thinking Christine , I am having you deliver gold laced chocolates to all my celebrity friends , when in fact I could feed the homeless in New York City for the holidays.”
I would always respond , CORRECT, and then she would proceed to give me a handful of cash to go buy delicious food to feed the patients in the hospital. I would then spend the holidays with these families which lasted for over two decades. These purposeful days would be followed typically by holiday dinner at Barbara’s private residence on fifth ave. As I walked through the door, I would receive her warm greeting by hearing her say ,”How did all the patients do today?”
My response was always the same , “Great owed to you and The Gift Room.”
She always said , “I am worried who is going to be your patron when I am gone to support you and your good deeds.”
My reply, “Well if heaven is for real then you will lead them to me.”
Barbara’s true dedication was helping children find their way, animals in need, and woman’s leadership programs, as well as journalists as the world already expected.
Barbara was my mentor, my closest friend as I actually started out over thirty years ago being her exercise coach.
Well for almost a decade now I have opened centers dedicated to her causes. I even had gift rooms with the sign , “In honor of Barbara Walters .” to purchase items in our gift room to donate the proceeds to people in need of services.
So here I am today , walking in the park upstate looking at the leaves change as I am remembering all our seasons together, and all the changes we went through over the years with one goal, to serve humanity.
My purpose for writing her memoir, “By Your Side”, was because of a promise I made to her years ago when she was hospitalized. As I cared for her, she expressed to me about her fear of dying and what she would be remembered for.
Followed by her saying “ I could care less about my name being on another hospital wing. I proceeded to say I am going to write the best memoir that will be, the one story about you that the audience has yet to hear. “
She laughed and replied , “ Well that would certainly be something great to read while I am in heaven as you always told me to believe in.”
Its been a rough year since Barbara passed away, as my baby sister Cat 40 , passed away unexpectedly to cancer this April. How could this happen ? As I always dedicated my life with your help Barbara to the oncology field.
My baby sister Cat, also left four children behind in this uncertain world of depression and youth suicide.
As I was walking today, I felt her presence by my side, telling me to catch up on current events. That was always her beef with me.
So I sat at a bench and I reviewed the papers for a half hour.
Then a sign hit me as you will see below.
This was a sure sign to now answer the question , “ Is Heaven for real and can you show me Barbara Walters ? I need to ask you for that sign now to keep my great work going. I would always respond to her , after she asked who would patron my work after she was gone, I would say to het , “ All I need is a few of your rare books , or even that mummy I used to hang my hat on to make you chuckle.? As I am presently chuckling thinking of that mummy as I write this now.
I have worked so diligently hard to help out an autistic news team in your sister Jackie’s name. As you always wanted your sister to be heard as a whole person in the tough society.
I have been working diligently to start a new program at 13 hands equine rescue called , ‘Project Younicorn’ in your name and my baby sisters. Our mission at 13 hands rescue in clinton corners is to develop this beautiful program for our youth at risk ,( which presently is all of them !) using rescue animals ( as Barbara was the head of the animal medical center in New York City. ) and her daughter Jackie and I always said ,” Our animals raised us !’
These rescue grounds full of as I say ,” Love and Rescue “ is a magical healing center that heals abused and unwanted animals and then we heal humans at risk with these animals.
It is a win win.
Since Barbara died, I have been looking for a new patron to take on her role with me and support me in doing these unbelievable projects of love and devotion using every cent and resource I have.
As I brushed Barbaras hair in the hospital when she was sick ,I told her,” I will leave you the legacy you truly deserve by writing a true memoir about your kindness that people do not see.”
Today is the day Barbara , “ Is heaven for real and can this auction help my charity in your name .
I know you are proud of me and have seen the struggle over the past couple of years. I also know you have seen my continual open heart and commitment to helping animals and humans.
So I ask you now in heaven miss Barbara , “ Can you help me through this auction with ‘My gift room project’, to help our youth today launch into a better life?
They are all suffering from the tragedies of the pandemic as well from the devastation of grief, loss and this ever changing uncertain world.
“ Please hear me Barbara and show me that heaven is indeed for real and that you are watching over me as always promised. “
Please hold my baby sister Cat for me , as I know she will be in your good hands as I was always in yours. “
I know the reality and the truth of where you want you inheritance and gifts to go.
I m shouting it out loud and clear to you my dear friend Barbara , and to you Jacqueline Dena Guber to hear my wishes as Barbara always did !
With love and blessings.
Dr. Christine Grimaldi
In faith and godspeed you will now show me. !