i searched for words as i crossed the short distance between our houses. the last time i saw her, she was in her housecoat, in bed, fighting pain and the cancer that caused it. i fully expected her to be the same, if not worse, and i just didn’t know what to say.
i climbed up the steps to her back door and knocked twice. almost immediately, the door opened and there she stood, one hand still on the door. she was dressed in jeans and a button up blouse. her hair was held back in a headband, and dangly earings, her signature statement piece, flitted as she spoke.
her voice was happy,
i asked, whaaaat are you doing??
she motioned me in, waving her canning tongs toward her kitchen, and as i passed by her, hugging her, of course, i noticed the boxes. thirty pounds of tomatoes. and the jars, and the pots… this was clearly a project, and she was right in the middle of it.
canning tomatoes! what else?
this was not the woman i had seen weeks before, but definitely the woman i had known since the day we moved in next door. she was stubborn and willful, resilient and so full of energy. she not only canned tomatoes (and everything else good under the sun), she grew them. and then she made delicious meals with them and shared them with the neighborhood.
i just expected… it’s just that… the last time…
i stammered, stuck between the initial thoughts that escaped my mouth before i could stop them and wanting to express my concern for her well being.
i’m canning tomatoes – because what choice do i have? i can lay there in bed and wait, … or i can can tomatoes. i’m canning tomatoes.
so let this be her legacy. to inspire any of us who face a challenge to not lay in wait, but to live fully. to continue to do what we love to do. to not give in. to be resilient.
in sweet loving memory of my neighbor and friend