The world may not have known Mrs. Johnson, but that was their loss, her passing was ours.
A Life Fully Lived
Morning winks over the horizon leaking into a spreading crack, creeping along mountain tops, fading North and South into the haze, lingering between day and night. Slowly, the breaking day blossoms into shimmers of reds and oranges, swirling through shades of yellow, maroon, grey then bursting into a violet hue of baby blue, mirroring inside puddles along sidewalks, roadways and the garden in Mrs. Johnson's backyard.
Mrs. Johnson's nostrils flair over a cup, nearly overflowing with a dark elixir of youthful awakening, as soft voices creep into her calm morning musings. "I want one of the blue ones." A child's whisper filters through a cascade of green leaves, flowing over Mrs. Johnson's fence, which separates her yard from the chaotic chatter of traffic beyond. "Those are Forget-Me-Nots, you idiot. Not 'blue ones.' Don't you know nothin'?" another whisper admonishes.
Wrinkles crowd into deep folds as Mrs. Johnson's smile spreads with memories, swelling into images of days-gone-by, picking flowers from neighbor's gardens on her way to school. Past days, not forgotten. She cherishes her memories, exploring them often these days, sitting in the early morning sunshine on her back porch.
Olfactory nerves swim among pleasant aromas, issuing from blossoms, dangling from stems, bowing here and there across her yard. Her garden is lush with buzzing bumblebees, horse flies, mosquitoes, under swooping Swallows, Sparrows and Jays. Life abounds, whizzing around her at its own pace, while memories slow her thoughts to a crawl. She sits silent, clinging to the tail of lingering nostalgia. Each sip she swallows from her cup brings another grin. Then Mrs. Johnson's cup rattles in its saucer, settling on the table at her side. She rises into a gulp of Spring, flushing through her lungs, arms thrust into the morning air, greeting a crisp new day with another deep breath. She searches her surroundings, finding everything in place, harmony progressing in comfortable strides.
More voices drift through the green partition, separating her from the pandemonium beyond, not as tiny, not as soft, issuing from an elder's throat, "I don't know how she does it. I can't remember ever seeing such beautiful flowers or in such abundance. How does she keep this place so green and 'popping' with color? It's like this every year. I hope she never moves."
Mrs. Johnson steps through her door, sinking into the shadows that embrace her in the comfort of her abode. Welcoming wafts of her elixir find their way to her olfactory nerves, while that nectar replenishes itself inside the percolator. So many memories surrounding her, so little time to remember. Mrs. Johnson crawls under a comforting throw she finds laying over the arm of her favorite chair. Beside the arm of her chair, lays her favorite book, its sheath of black leather cracking into thin beige ribbons, spreading in a web, halting on brittle, worn edges. Inside, pages framed in gold, worn, tattered but filled with comfort and hope lay unopened, not forgotten, a flowering inspiration for each day along her journey, and promising glory to greet her upon that journey's end.
In the floor of the corner of the room, a puppy lays, growing into her favorite pet. Tail wagging, tongue hanging, nose shining, exuberance lifting onto hind legs, standing, jumping begging for an embrace. A sigh escapes Mrs. Johnson's throat to linger for a moment while those memories melt before her eyes.
Again the wrinkles gather to the sides of both her cheeks. Her heart swells inside fond recollections as her shroud pulls tighter around her shoulders, as she cuddles inside her favorite chair. A twilight of consciousness clouds her vision as a voice rises out of shadows to fill her ears with comfort, "Hello, Dear. Are we going to see the kids tonight? I want to see my grandchildren--don't you? Let's stop and get something to eat along the way. What do ya' think?" His smile loosens butterflies, tickling inside her chest. Hope fills her at last, for the moment, then yields to the fading smell of his aftershave. Coldness leaks inside her soul as his memory drifts away.
The slit between her eyelids admits an image inside the frame of a picture, hanging on her wall. Two handsome children, ushering memories of a life already lived. Christmas, Thanksgiving, weekends and sometimes a summer or two. Visits too short, memories of trips too far away, love bridging it all, bringing 'home' to wherever their journey leads them in life.
Images of Mrs. Johnson's family fade into a blanket of billowing white clouds set against a clear blue sky where she spreads her arms, dragging them through tall grass, making angel wings at her shoulders. As a young girl, she dreams of love in a life to come, wondering if it will ever be a reality, wishing upon drifting Dandelion seeds, exploding in front of her breath. Her eyelids flutter shut while watching a drifting cloud, dreams catch hold, and her thoughts slip away.
"Loved," stands alone at the top of the stone, while grey clouds shed Heaven's tears over a sea of umbrellas. Mourning's shadow falls across a hill full of grey slabs, jutting between shifting feet, clutching children, tears and chokes and coughs, but no other sound. In the center of the crowd, under an open canopy, rain pelting its roof, a preacher looks from his Bible with eyes roaming the huddling throng.
A preacher speaks, "Love cannot be manufactured on an assembly line. At least, not the love Mrs. Johnson held in her heart. She was unique to this world because all who knew her loved her. Newspapers printed no accolades of her accomplishments since her life's achievements were not momentous by worldly standards. Mrs. Johnson possessed no great wealth, and she never governed, yet she earned the adoration of many, especially the many who stand here in the rain today. Her kindness raised us from sadness, heartache, despair, and even sometimes, hunger. She fostered a family with pure love. In her, we found an unwavering neighbor, a firm supporter, and knew that she never, ever backed down for fear of her own safety, but would for the safety of others. Mrs. Johnson's many accomplishments were not notable to the world, but to all present this morning, she was a gift from God. I, for one, believe her achievements have already been judged to be among the highest attainable in the eyes of our Lord. May God hold and protect her forever and ever, Amen."