(June, almost fourteen years ago…….)
I don’t know where to begin. Obviously the beginning would be the place to start but my head and heart are so full of the present, that I shall just let my thoughts dictate the plan.
A letter arrived this morning.
There was nothing unusual in that at all, for letters and cards have been arriving non stop for weeks now. Letters, cards and flowers from people I know and love, from people whose friendships I value greatly and from people I scarcely know at all .
This letter was from Rona. None of my family will know who Rona is but that doesn’t matter for they love anyone who loves me, especially at this present time. It was an account of their end of school term activities which I had missed. It was cheerful and so not in keeping with my mood at all. I thought O God, she doesn’t know…… and then, on the last page, there it was.
‘Anyway, Maureen dear, life, I’m afraid , actually goes on.We’ve talked about you and thought about you so often. I feel simply devastated for you. But please take my advice, grab an interest – and work on it. Write! Love you, Rona.’
Countless ‘end of school year’ events began to tumble around in my head. I recalled, briefly, the hectic-ness of it all and I thought of all those colleagues who had taken the time, this year, to acknowledge my present situation. I re-read the letter and understood.
I wondered how long it had taken Rona to put it so ‘nonchalantly’ together. Writing it must have been one of the first things she did when she quit school for the summer. How kind and thoughtful some people are – and in Rona’s case how astute, for here I am sitting at the keyboard trying to string some words together and marvelling at how God , indeed, does move in mysterious ways.
Today, July 2nd, is our wedding Anniversary – our 38th – or it would have been our 38th if Hugh had been here.You see both partners have to be alive for it to count – and Hugh isn’t – Hugh is dead. There, I’ve said it , but I still can’t believe it. He died on Saturday 1st June at 0105 hrs.
In one of the readings that I keep by my bed, it says that ‘Death is nothing at all. I have only just slipped away into the next room….’ Well,no, Hugh, you haven’t, because I have searched them all, every room, every day….. and what I am looking for just isn’t there. All I get is the overwhelming sense that you have been in every place I look and that I’ve just missed you.
Besides the letter which came today, I took delivery of a beautiful basket of flowers. As I took them from the messenger at the door I thought of Hugh and of the flowers he would have given me today. I wanted the card to say, ‘To Mosie, all my love , Hugh xxxx’ , as he would have written , as he had written countless times over the years….. but it didn’t. Yet maybe he wouldn’t have sent flowers this year.Maybe he would have been ‘persuaded’ that we should have a tree for the garden – or should I say another tree for the garden – or as Hugh would have protested, ‘Aw Mosie not another tree – it’ll be like Birnham Wood before long.’ But he would have capitulated.
He loved his garden and had watched it blossom over three summers. There was little happening in the garden when we first took it over. I remember that we decided to take advice from a ‘proper’ landscape gardener.Big mistake. Said expert, advised the application of some topsoil – like a couple of tons of the stuff. It was duly delivered and spread around … bigger mistake… for it was black and dusty and made the garden look like a coal yard.Oh it sparkled in the sunlight but only because it was littered with countless fragments and slivers of glass! I will not dwell on the lengthy telephone calls and irate letters which were consequently exchanged but suffice it to say that Hugh’s tenacity won the day. The lorry came back and the coal dust was removed and returned one assumes to the ‘bing’ from whence it had come and hopefully not sold on to some (other) poor gullible ‘sod’.
We then became our own landscape gardeners. We planned and we planted, we plotted and we potted. Hail, rain and shine we went ‘up the Clydeside’ to the nurseries, browsing and speculating about which plant would look right where and sighing over the exotic and delicate ones that would just never be able to survive in our windy patch. How we loved those outings. We learned a good deal about feeding plants with the correct nutrients and a good deal more about feeding ourselves with soup and scones. Indeed we even moved premises between courses in order to secure the best soup and the best scones . Sometimes we even forgot about the plants!
When the grass cutting became too much of a chore our dear friend Cathie secured the services of Sean the Gardener who had all the right tools and equipment to manicure the garden to Hugh’s satisfaction .We loved it when he came and we would stand and admire his handiwork when he left. Sean always had a story to tell or a suggestion to make that would keep Hugh and himself engaged during Sean’s well earned breaks. Hugh appreciated his help and would certainly approve of his continued support.
I have managed to revisit all but one of our nurseries in the past month. Hugh was particularly well known there for his fulsome praise or gentle criticism of their hearty soups.We pass it often, my daughters Pauline, Anne and I, en route to less intimate eateries for I can still see him sitting at a table by the window savouring his minestrone and a great sob rises in my throat as I struggle again to stem the never ending flow. I have lost the taste for the coffee shops now but I go nonetheless, for it is part of the process – a necessary preamble to the choosing and buying of the plants. And this is where my appetite has become insatiable.
I wrote a script once. It was to help children understand the Sacrament of Confirmation. It had the garden as its theme. Basically it illustrated that if flower seeds were left untouched in their packets nothing would happen, they would remain unchanged. Given, however, the right conditions, nourishment and tender, loving care, the realisation of their potential was wonderful to behold. So it is with the gifts and talents God gives to us .God says to the child in my script ‘Make me a garden. Make me a garden that people will so admire, they will want to stay in it, help you care for it and make it grow .’This is one unfinished task I must complete. I must make my garden grow.
The beautiful basket of flowers was from Giovanna, a teaching colleague and friend of many years standing. Although we were never close I feel drawn to be closer now. You see, she, too, is a widow and only now do I really understand and feel her grief. I have been truly sad for May, Geraldine, Mary Margaret, Ann, Nancy, Mary, Sadie….the list is endless but only now am I able to say with genuine conviction, ’I do know how you feel….’ God help us all .
to be continued…