Reading an article last week, I immediately thought of a dear friend who loves to garden. The article is about backyard gardeners in Britain who self-quarantined during COVID, and who not only have been resourceful by planting their own gardens at home, but they have also found some buried - and valuable - treasures as a result of their lock-down, sod-busting efforts.
A friend of mine here in the States had been tending to a plot in a community garden the last couple of years, and also a small garden plot in the side yard of her home. As Fall 2020 was approaching, my friend was preparing for the final harvest ... and for the hibernation process of her gardens for the Winter.
We now live in different areas of the country, so she would send me proud pictures of the fruits of her labors. As she was preparing to go in for a surgery in late September, for cancer that had reared its head a second time, I sent her a window herb box garden from Harry and David that she could tend to, as she was convalescing during the Fall and Winter until the Spring ... when she would be well again, the same as she'd done four years ago. Spring would be the time for the new beginnings... she'd able to resume her other gardens as well. She told me I always sent the most thoughtful gifts. I truly treasure her words
Not only had my cherished friend reaped the rewards of the soil, she has reaped also the treasures of the soul, tending to the many friendship seeds she has cultivated throughout her lifetime. This came to light like a beacon the last few days, when an outpouring of Love flowed throughout the roots of those many friendships, after her passing on December 10th, 2020 was made public to the world.
These pandemic times have been life-altering for us all to say the least. They have taught us that tending to our relationships - from even just the ones in our own little safe bubbles & greenhouses, all the way to the relationships we have across the globe - are so important to continue to cultivate as well.
We have amazing technology right at our fingertips ... social media, Zoom calls, Live-streams ... and yes, even the old-school phone call. We can stay in touch and stay connected - no matter what - and continue to tend to our relationship gardens. COVID has not stopped the human race from doing that.
Certainly during the Spanish Flu 100 years ago, the practical difficulty of connection outside of our immediate surroundings was of course a greater challenge. But not now ... we are better and we are stronger ... and now during this pandemic 100 years later, we have advanced technology that has enabled us to ensure our network of roots remain just as strong.
Tragically, the father of another cherished friend passed suddenly two weeks ago. I could not be at the service as we live out of state, but I was able to "attend" the live-streamed service. As earth from Israel was lovingly sprinkled into the grave after the casket had been lowered, I felt the very real connection right in my own living room, even though I was 1800 miles away. A bit of silver lining in the clouds of COVID.
It would have been easier for all of us to just retreat these last nine-plus months, and hole up, and not reach out ... but my dear friend's tributes of the last five decades of her life are proof-positive that retreating in these pandemic times is NOT the best answer. She was the "Constant Gardener", both literally and figuratively.
The movie "Constant Gardener" from 15 years ago is a "tragedy" in the Hollywood definition as the main character does not survive. She was fighting for a cause that endangered her life, just like my friend was always for the cause as well. She certainly was no wall flower ... and she helped so very many while she was here.
My dear friends' five-decade life-span was not a tragedy at all. Yes, I would absolutely have cherished being the fun and spry old ladies in the retirement home together thirty years from now, winning the walker races and doing zumba from our chairs ... but, that was not her life's lot.
She brought a beautiful daughter into this world. I was one of her first babysitters in the early days, and made her first snowman with her. A friendship that sprouted with this amazing woman only 15 years ago, created a beautiful garden of a lifetime of memories for me and for so many others as well. For that, I am eternally grateful.
I found solace the last few days in preparing my holiday cards, handwriting messages, and sending them across the country and globe ... reaching out and cultivating all of my relationships on this plane ... as one day, we will all meet again in an even much more spectacular Garden ... a Garden that my dear friend is tending to right now, today, as I write this blog.
Her last text to me when she was too weak to talk was of a red rose, a pine tree in the middle and the another red rose. No explanation or words, just the 3 symbols. I interpreted it as follows: In Chinese traditions, the pine tree is vigorous and not afraid of the frost and harsh environments. My friend IS that pine tree.
Confucius stated that when the year turns cold, pines reveal their persistent green. Words cannot even describe how strong my dear friend was. And, the Red Rose is LOVE. The two Red Roses that bookend the Pine are indeed symbols of her husband and daughter. My friend is in the middle and needed to be stronger than all of us right now to transition to the next plane of her souls' existence ... and her continued strength from beyond will help guide the rest of us through as well, as we all, one by one, become the Constant Gardeners ...
Until I see you again...
Shawn Elaine Anderson