An Orbit of Daffodils
Well the week has passed quickly and as I promised on Monday I followed my dog of a memory sniffing out old thoughts and feelings like forgotten buried soup bones. Leonora’s passing seven years hence still doesn’t rest easily in my chest, and I suspect it never will. She was a strong and determined woman in her life and she was equally determined that in her death she would be the same. And so when the treatments for her voracious cancer were robbing her of pleasure in the last months of her life, she stopped treatment. And when she could feel the cancer pressing on her ability to be independent she chose to stop living in this physical world. She chose her date and time, she had it all planned and organized. My husband Jack (her son) and I had pledged to support her and be with her, no matter what and so we found ourselves walking up her porch steps to enter her living house on the appointed day at the appointed time for last time. We did our best to be loving and light we didn’t want to burden her as she embarked on this mysterious journey, and so when she laid herself down to sleep we held her hands and stroked her brow and sang some forgotten melody. And if this were the end of the story it would be hard enough, but the best-laid plans don’t always work and while Leonora had given over her soul her body was reluctant to pass. We were left with an excruciating choice. We made the only choice that we could to honor her wishes. And while Jack held my hand and his mothers I did what no son should be required to do for his mother. We begged and pleaded and cajoled and finally her body released its hold on her spirit and her final wish was fulfilled. Many times I have wished that this day could be redone that we could have had a midwife with us to help both Leonora and us. Someone to help with the difficult birth from this life to whatever is to come. But as Leonora often said, “If wishes were ponies then beggars would ride”. And so I walk.
All week I walked through ideas as an art response to these barking, whining memories, but none seemed right. Each was either too trite or beautiful or simplistic to hold this tangled mess. So when I walked into our local hardware store and saw a bag of 100 daffodil bulbs the weight of the bag seemed just right, heavy yet full of promise. So this morning I donned my rubber boots and gathered trowel and shovel, work gloves and kneepads and I walked. I walked with my backpack heavy with the bulbs and tools and my heart heavy with memory. With each step I walked into the memories of that Friday seven years passed. My breath caught in my swollen throat. When I arrived at the Trailside Sanctuary my breath eased with the task ahead. I carefully marked a circle nine feet from the center altar and dug a small trench. I measured my circle and determined that my one hundred bulbs should be placed 6 ½ inches apart. As I was one my hands and knees carefully placing each bulb in the earth my dog Lucky, who had accompanied me, kept watch over the rolling hills occasionally barking and chasing phantoms of her own. Every now in then as I circled the Sanctuary in an obit of daffodils, Lucky would whine and wonder at my task, licking me lovingly and inquiring about my progress. When all the bulbs were placed and covered with the rich loam of earth and oaks, I sprinkled the circle with the gingko leaves I had gathered from the now bare tree at the Ranch. I gathered my tools and walked back home. I am not sure what I was hoping my digging would do but just like in my walk up, my walk back found my breath caught in my throat a burn in my ears and eyes, ah but if wishes were ponies then beggars would ride…and so I walk. As it should be really, some things should not heal. A good thick scab will suffice, and if every now and then the blood breaks the surface of that scab like a daffodil breaking through the soil to bloom in the cold depths of February, then I will accept it for what it is. An outrageous call to persistence and joy and pure yellow courage to live well and true and honest each day I am given and to keep walking.