A Reflection on Grief

Kathy Fleming

At my advanced age, I shouldn’t be surprised by the odd thoughts that spring to mind at unexpected times and in unexpected places. Today my garden is that unexpected place as I hurry with end of season tasks. Thoughts happen often as I work in my garden. I think it’s one reason the work of the garden gets tended to so often. It is more than enjoyment that I receive here.

Gardening slows my mind as my hands work, allowing for random thoughts to surface; some profound, most not very. I think it must be the touching of the earth that energizes these thoughts and brings them into focus. But perhaps it is just the time apart that draws me deeper into a pondering space.

Honoring the Wisdom of the Seasons

Today I’m putting my roses to bed for the winter. Here in Minnesota we need to provide winter protection for our non-hardy roses. We do that by ‘tipping’ them into a trench and covering them with garden dirt. This year it is only October as I dig, with green leaves still in evidence on the neighborhood trees. It’s much too early to my gardener’s eye to end my season.

This act of seasonal completion is usually my last garden task every fall. I always hate to see the growing season end, and I love to see how late I can enjoy my roses each year. This means that many years I have been in the cold garden late into November digging very cold dirt. Perhaps this year I am finally learning that I’m not in charge in my garden. Am I finally honoring the wisdom of the garden? It may be too soon to tell.

As I sit here trimming the rose bushes in preparation, beautiful buds and even new growth fall to the ground along with the leaves. I feel the loss of so much potential very deeply. It’s wrong and wasteful, and I’m not ready to let my garden go for the year. This is another early loss I am trying to reconcile as I work.

Reluctantly Letting Go

We lost our son-in-law early last May to illness. He, too, was full of life’s potential. He had such a creative presence and sly intellect that I can’t believe he is gone. He was so full of life. Like my rose garden this year his end came too soon.

I’m realizing that I am trying to hold on to Tony as if he were my roses, as if I can hold back the seasons. It is the early wastefulness and the unchangeable circumstances that I can’t reconcile. Could it be that at age 70 there is something more behind my reluctance? I know I’m trying to control what is not mine to control. But this old woman gardener is stubbornly holding on. The roses I can allow to go; it is their season. It is still too soon to let Tony go.

Gardening thoughts and old age don’t magically make you wiser. I know solutions depend on time and effort. I’m afraid I’ll spend a lot of time weeding next year to try to attain some wisdom.

Come spring I will unearth my roses and plant them again for the next season, but I will still long for Tony’s laugh, his presence. Perhaps by spring my need to hold on can be more wisely managed. A new season is what I need to work this out with my fingers in the dirt. But I know today as the leaves drift down it is too early for endings. It’s just too soon.

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