Cancer had ravaged her body, and they both knew she would never again slip out to her garden at dusk for one last look at the new growth on the pea vines. The sweet woman who had happily shared fresh ripe tomatoes and patiently taught his daughter how to bake rhubarb crisp was wandering down a path he had never walked, leaving her pain filled world behind.
He knew the signs; he saw the gradual slowing of her labored breathing, the dwindling interest in conversations despite her continued remarkable sharpness of mind. Her eyes slipped out of focus or wandered to shadowy corners of the room, and he wondered what she saw there.
to offer her peace,
to bless her,
to somehow give her permission
to lay down her hoe
and close the gate on her life garden,
to venture off to a place
“where the roses never fade.”
Kindly, gently he wondered aloud if she had any “unfinished business” in her life.
Was there anything she wanted to take care of in these final hours?
This was the only place he wanted to be. Right here, right now.
A smile tugged at his lips even as he stifled a deeper chuckle; “mulch the onions…that’s all.” He didn’t know what he was expecting, but not this. He leaned back and pondered her simple words...
Oh, that everyone could come to this season of goodbye and finish like Aunt Phoebe.
Her life garden was well tended;
no neglected soul drooped, forgotten in a shaded corner.
No fruitless tomato plant struggled for sunlight, half smothered by weeds.
Her fences were mended, her friendships were nurtured.
She kept her garden well, and she kept her word and her deep trust in God to the very end.
As the sun sank behind the bluegreen mountain, Phoebe left her tired self behind like a discarded corn husk. She finished well.