Sunday, November 12, 2017
This tree is in our neighbor's yard, but years ago there was one on our city block between my best friend's house and ours. THIS particular tree first captured my attention forty years ago when the kids were small and we were a one-car family. On those occasions when I needed the car, I drove my then husband to work through this neighborhood.
The moment this amazing autumn beauty caught my eye, I silently enumerated all my blessings and thanked God for my eyes. I so admired the ranch house next door to this tree. It was my dream home in the county.
Twenty-one years ago THAT house, next to THIS tree became our home. Funny, how life works. I believe it is no coincidence that my dream came true. In most instances, I have been blessed with everything I have yearned for, but seldom WHEN I wanted it. Mom used to always say, "God's time, not our time." I believe that.
At 51, my friend Rose sported a wig and a raspy voice, the result of the debilitating cancer which had robbed her of her hair and her strength. She had more bad days than good, and as the weather cooled, the dark, wet skies mirrored her situation. After nearly a week of rain, the clouds lifted and so did Rose's spirits. When I came for a visit, she was alert, her voice halting but strong and assertive for a change.
"Take me outside. I want to sit in the sunshine."
She shuffled into the yard with her oxygen tank in tow. We sat in silence under the sugar maple tree enjoying the brisk breeze. I tucked her afghan around her. Hundreds of orange, gold and yellow leaves rained down upon us and made Rose smile. Memories of our twenty-five year friendship whirled in our minds like the leaves overhead. We were entranced by the waltzing leaves and watched as wind gusts swept them up and sent them dancing at our feet. The yard was very much alive, and so was Rose that day.
"Will you please get me that red leaf," she asked, "and that yellow one?" She pointed here and there, and I bounded about gathering brilliant orange, red and golden leaves in a huge bouquet as she orchestrated the activity. Rose soon tired and asked to go inside. I placed her leaf bouquet on a table beside her, tucked her in, and I told her I'd see her the next afternoon.
When I arrived the next day, she was glassy-eyed and weak.
"I have something for you," she said pausing breathlessly, gasping between words. "Do you remember the big maple tree in the old neighborhood?"
When we were neighbors, the gorgeous towering tree, Mother Nature's masterpiece, was the focal point of our neighborhood each autumn. We were blessed to have it right outside our doors. We collected leaves with our children when they were young, and we made centerpieces with the colorful array that blanketed the lawns and sidewalks.
"I made you a gift." She handed me ten sheets of white paper on which she had arranged and scotch taped the colorful leaves that she had collected the day before.
Tears welled in our eyes. "Do you like them? Can you use them?" she asked.
"Yes. I love them! and I will treasure them forever," I said.
Like the autumn leaves, Rose completed her life cycle at the end of fall. I laminated the colorful leaf collages, and every year I use them as a teaching aid with my preschool students. And I think of Rose as I tell my students about her and the leaves.
"Leaves are like people, they come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Redwood trees are the tallest of all. Their roots intertwine. They support each other when the strong winds blow, sort of like when you hold hands with your best friend and it makes you feel safe."
The simple treasure is a priceless gift bequeathed with love, and it will keep on touching lives, just as my friend Rose did.
Published: HCI Communications, Voices of Breast Cancer 2007