Life is short: show those you love that you love them. … so I frequently end posts on this blog when I speak about my family and legion of “elder buds.”
This past Saturday, my partner and I planted some flowers in a garden outside Mabel’s condo, so she could see them from her window and enjoy. We didn’t think much of it. She said that she liked to see flowers, and all the flowers she once had were gone, destroyed by snow, eaten by deer, gobbled by weeds.
In about an hour, my partner and I pulled weeds, turned the soil over, added some compost to enrichen it, and planted some daisies, coriopsis, and our state flower, Black-Eyed Susans. Mabel loved Black-Eyed Susans, in particular. I don’t quite know how I remembered that, but I did.
Mabel was so happy. She gave each of us a big hug, a huge warm smile, and thanked us profusely. We said, “nothin’ to it; glad to help.” We washed our hands and were on our way.
Sunday morning, Mabel phoned. Once again, she described how happy she was to wake up, open her blinds, and see the flowers. She said that she knew she could call early (6:30am) because she knew I was always an early riser.
“Mabel, thanks for your call. Seriously, nothin’ to it. You made us some great casseroles when I was laid up with my broken leg. It’s what we do: help each other. Thank you for the thanks, which warms our hearts. Seeing your smile is our rich reward.”
Monday morning, Mabel’s neighbor called me to let me know that the ambulance came to Mabel’s condo, followed by the coroner. Mabel died in her sleep. That surprised me. She had not been ill, and she wasn’t “that old.” She was 78. Always bright, peppy, and full of good cheer. I knew that she had a history of heart problems, which is why she gave up driving her own car. She was afraid that “some crazy driver will cause me to have a heart attack!” She always said that with a laugh, but I sensed that she was seriously frightened.
Mabel gave up her car six months ago. I helped her sell it. Then I began including Mabel on my regular rounds of older folks who I take to the grocery store for shopping trips. Mabel was doing well. She was getting rides, using the bus, and otherwise getting around rather well on her own. She admitted to me rather sheepishly on Saturday morning that she had me take her to the store because she liked spending time with me — but she really didn’t need it. She was managing well on her own.
Mabel taught me a lot of things. She was an avid historian. I learned a lot of history of my own state, and about the U.S. Revolution. She shared information in an entertaining and informative manner, dropping in occasional lines like “Charles Carroll of Carrollton was the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence when he died at age 95 — 40 years beyond the life expectancy of someone of his cohort.” She always talked like that… sprinkled scientific terminology with history. I shall always cherish what I learned from Mabel spending time in my life. Sharing with me. Being my friend.
Mabel was so very happy — for a day — the day being Sunday, the last day of her life. All because of a few measly flowers that we planted on a Saturday afternoon. Who woulda thunk?
Life is short: show those you love that you love them. Do it now… you never know.