As I left work a little early the Friday before Memorial Day, I thought it odd that she waited at the parking garage entrance for a ride as opposed to driving. I waved, and she waved back. I thought – what a strong woman. She had battled a recent health issue but was almost through it and looked forward to retiring later in the summer. She did not make it into the office the following Tuesday but was at my desk first thing on Wednesday morning with her husband.
“Something is wrong with my vision, and I am unable to perform my job right now.” She hoped the doctors could identify the cause soon so that she could return to work without too much time off (so typical of her, the iron woman). The month of June flew by, and we were optimistic that a specialist in St. Louis would be able to help. She had an appointment on the 8th of July. But the weekend before that, she was admitted to a local hospital with more severe symptoms; and by Tuesday, the prognosis was fatal. We visited her in the hospital and could not believe what we saw. How can this be? How could this have happened over the course of a few weeks?
She loved roses and nurtured her own beautiful ones. She frequently shared them with us at the office. When I shopped that week, the entire front of the grocery store was full of roses – all colors – it was their annual sale. Thinking of her, I bought 18 yellow/orange ones – some of her favorite – and placed them around the office. And we waited for the impending sad news.
She left this life on July 27, a month short of the time she had hoped to retire. Her devoted husband of 40 years, the rest of her loving family, and we (her work family) could do nothing to prevent it, although we did pray. She touched us all. I traveled to St. Louis for her memorial yesterday and was presented with a rose in her memory.
I hoped it would survive the four-hour trip home. There was a lesson to be learned from this rose. I needed to reflect more on life – hers, mine, and ours. So here I go again adding up score – Daddy got 67 years, Eileen 65, Bernie 72, Grandpa 97, Cheryl 48, young Cameron only 18 – what I really want to say is, “Just stop it!” I want everything to be fair and just. I made a comment to a friend, “We better hurry up and retire because we might not make it that extra year, two, or five.”
I remember a mentor of mine saying many years ago that as you become older, you begin to suffer losses (speaking about death of loved ones and friends). It is the natural order of things, and we who remain must deal with it. She was the age I am now and was experiencing this difficulty. It seemed so very far in the future that I would have to deal with this thing called death. Even greater a difficulty is dealing with untimely, premature death. But my mentor offered wise counsel that I was reminded of by my friend this week: “We must live each day the best we can in peace and love because we may not all make it to that appointed day in our understanding of retirement.”
My rose made it home. I will remember Eileen and will do my best to make each day count because today could very well be my last. Thank you beautiful rose lady for gracing my life these past six years. I will never see a rose as just a beautiful flower again. It will remind me of you and will remind me to appreciate each and every day. And, yes, and I will take time to smell the roses while I can.
“The length of our days is seventy years – or eighty, if we have the strength … for they quickly pass, and we fly away … Teach us to number our days aright that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalms 90:10-12 (NIV)