Anybody who is into gardening tends to share. Their plants overgrow and need to be divided in order to keep the garden light and airy. That's when friends exchange plants with each other. I have many plants that were given to me and I remember who gave me every single one of them.
I lost my friend L. last year to breast cancer. Among other things, we shared a love of birds and flowers, beautiful gardens, nature, etc. However, ours was a complicated friendship and in the last few years of her life, we had fallen out. I had hoped that we would resolve our issues some day, but that day never came. I was perhaps a little too honest to her liking about her shortcomings as a mother and as a friend and she made it clear to a mutual friend of ours that she did not want to see me again.
During her last days, under the influence of heavy painkillers perhaps somewhat mixed with the lucidity of a dying person, she asked her son why I wasn't coming to see her. He replied: "Don't you remember, Mom? You had a fight." She said: "We did? Oh, please tell her I'm sorry."
I couldn't go to the funeral. I couldn't bring myself to. I carry a lot of sadness and a lot of guilt still from our falling out and it weighs heavily on my heart. I did however write a long, heartfelt letter to her family to let them know that I still cared and still valued our fourteen years of friendship.
I also told them about how every time I was in my garden looking at the phloxes and the black-eyed susans L. gave me, I thought of her and how these flowers were really a way for her to live on.
Then there's M., my wonderful friend and neighbour. M. gave me hostas, ferns and other flowers. M. was an avid gardener who tended to her gardens with great care and perfection, which in itself was a true reflection of the military training and discipline she had received while in the Royal Air Force.
Unfortunately, last summer my dear friend M. suffered a debilitating stroke that left her confined to a wheelchair. Her husband and her had to sell the house and move into a condo to accommodate her wheelchair. No more gardening for her...Now, there is a young couple living in their house, and they could care less about gardening. The whole thing is slowly getting overtaken by weeds and their big dog is trampling over all the plants. So sad.
Before M. and her husband moved out, I asked if I could take a few plants with the promise of taking very good care of them: a giant Blue hosta which was M.'s pride and joy and a lovely vintage rosebush which blooms its little heart out well into fall, which they both cherished.
In hindsight, a very smart move, as these gorgeous plants would now be neglected. Now safely tucked in my garden, I cherish and appreciate them every day, and keep that wonderful connection with my dear friend.
My neighbour S. on the other side, gave me her surplus hostas too. These hostas look totally different from the ones I already had, so it adds interest. She also gave two gorgeous rosebushes because at the time, her children were very young and she was scared that they would hurt by the thorns. These rosebushes remind me what a caring mom and a caring person she is!
And finally there is my friend J. who gave me a few pretty columbines, and to me, they are a perfect reflection of her: they are colourful, charming, vivacious and hardy.
Like my circle of friends, all these elements come together to form a harmonious vision, and I revel in their company and love every one of them, thorns and all.