Autumn has been gracing us with its warm afternoons and bone chilling nights. I’ve been watching as the leaves collect on the ground, growing more and more every day. Soon, the golden blanket will turn into slick mud when the wet begins to pour down upon us as relentless as the promise of winter.
Down below my house, right after the barn, on the corner of the drive, lived my garden. My husband built it a tall fence to protect it from vicious predators with hungry appetites, like chickens and deer. My boys and I planted and watered and nurtured little seeds into an abundant and fruitful life. But as Autumn inched deeper and deeper and the sun retreated lower into the southern sky, the shadows grew longer and the once vibrant green life began to wither and fade.
My mother came for a visit and noticed the once spectacular garden had begun to diminish in color and productivity. She asked if the garden was done. My reply was, “nearly”. The previously strong stems browned and turned frail, so I began to uproot the weakest plants and the decaying parts and pile them up to be decomposed and added back to the soil for next year’s benefit. My garden, in all of its summer splendor, had more than stalled, it was dying; slowly shriveling into the ground where it had once sprung from.
A few weeks later, there was, of course, still a few tomatoes ripening; the little glorious resilient beasts that they are. So, when I was dumping ingredients into the crockpot for an easy dinner and it called for a can of diced tomatoes, I thought, I can do better than that. There are still a few tomatoes pulling through on the thin limbs.
I marched myself down to what was left of my garden with a bowl and began picking my last little glories. After the tomatoes were plucked, I turned and saw a zucchini that had sneaked under the old dry leaves, still clinging to vine. I happily collected the zucchini as well. What a fine meal my elderly garden had given to us. Immediately a thought seeded in my mind and bloomed there, until I finally agreed to write it down.
My garden’s prime may have passed, but it showed me it was not done. It was brown, weathered, and wilting, but it wasn’t finished simply because I was prepared for it to be ended, or because the shadows of the giants around it stole its light. No, my garden had life, no matter how dim, and saw fit to continue to bestow an offering of life, even after I had quit watering it. How fitting to our elderly - aged moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas.
Our elderly, whether they be a stranger or a loved one, once lived an abundant and fruitful life, like a garden in its time of summer splendor. Many provided roads, bridges, businesses, or homes. Still others provided families, knowledge, or freedoms. Their glory days of beauty and splendor are bygone – in the past. Parts of their bodies, minds, and delights are being weeded away from them as the season of a man or woman comes to physical conclusion.
However, like a book, the conclusion is not the end. It’s the most important part. Its where the story comes to reveal the light that was there all along. The wisdom. If we take time to visit and appreciate our elderly gardens, we just might be surprised to find there is more life there than we expected.
Those few tomatoes and zucchini were the last fruits I enjoyed this year, but I realize I was more grateful for them than all the rest of the harvest from its entire season.