One More Walk Around the Garden

"Our time together is now measured in seasons," he said as they sat on their front porch.

Walking is the best exercise for you. Not only in the physical sense. But also for your mental and spiritual well being. This walk is one I will never forget.

Up the hill behind my home runs a path that at one time would take you into a beautiful wooded area. But in recent years someone plowed down the trees and built their little piece of the world. Oh, you can still get to the wooded area, but now you must cut through the development or walk up through the cemetery. If I want scenery I go through the development. If I want to remind myself how blessed I am, I go through the cemetery.

Today's walk took me through the development.

There's a beautiful old stone house that I have admired since moving here more than 10 years ago. I have spoken to an older retired couple working in their yard nearly every time I passed there. They must work long and hard in the garden because their home is beautifully landscaped. Among the bountiful flowers and bushes I could see Greek statues and bird baths. There are trees whose names I am not familiar with and lush ground cover of deep greens that remain that way well into winter.

But in this past year I have noticed a change.

The bushes have grown beyond their earlier, well manicured size. Many of the smaller trees have taken over their spots as branches hang lower nearly covering the flower beds below. This once pristine garden spot has become a reflection of the condition of it's care takers.

They have grown too physically old to keep up with it.

"How are you today my friends?" I asked as I passed by their front porch.

"We are as fine as can be expected, sir," the gentleman replied.

There they sat on the front porch of their home. He had on a warm woolen jacket, open at the front revealing a blue sweater vest. In spite of the fact that they hardly go any where, he wore a tie as always.

She sat in an old wooden rocker wrapped from head to toe in a beautiful autumn quilt. Beneath, she appeared to have a heavy sweater and woolen pants. In contrast I was wearing a t-shirt and jeans. At their age even the slightest chill requires warmer clothing.

"Are you ready for winter?" I asked.

"In past years we looked forward to cold winter days. Our fireplace and enclosed porch out back was a haven from the heaviest storms. And a great place for a cup of tea and a good book. Have you written another one yet?" He asked.

"Not yet published, but I have written stories along the way that will be put into a collection very soon. I promise to bring one to you," I said.

"I hope we are here to read it," he said.

"Are you leaving the area?" I asked.

"No my friend. Like the season we now find so beautiful, we are in the Autumn of our lives. Our time together is now measured in seasons. I pray that we survive the winter," he said.

Then turning toward his wife he said, "My love is not doing very well. My heart aches for her. I am not sure that we will..." He began to cry.

I nervously brushed the leaves on the sidewalk with my feet not knowing whether to say something or permit him to continue.

"I once loved the beautiful display Autumn created in our yard. I guess I should be thankful that it has given us at least one more spectacular show. But as the leaves begin to fall I see my wife's spirit begin to fade."

"I don't know if I ever told you this. But your beautiful handy work, your gift for bringing life to the world in the form of breathtaking flowers and trees, has lifted my spirits many times just when I needed it. For years now I have walked by your home and paused long enough to be refreshed. It must give you great satisfaction to see the fruits of your labor," I said.

"Yes, it has. Except for this year. We could do little because of my wife's failing health. I always knew that I would be able to recognize when our time together was coming to an end," he said.

Then as he stepped carefully off the porch he pointed to the garden path that began nearby and wrapped the entire house.

"That trellis covered with roses was designed to look like the gates of Heaven. I envisioned that one year we would enter those gates one last time and walk along the garden path together. I knew there would come a time when she would not be able to stand for long periods."

He stopped for a moment and looked at her. She sat quietly never saying a word and smiled her heavenly smile whenever their eyes made contact.

"I vowed to never walk that path alone. She has been by my side forever."

I walked over to the gate and looking at the surroundings I asked, "Have you walked through it this year?"

"No. That is why it is in such disrepair," he replied. "But it is our dream to see April together once more. And have one more walk along..." he stopped.

"Oh, my Lord," he said. "That is our favorite song."

"I'm not familiar with it. What's it called?"

"One more walk along the Garden" written by Lerner. It is from a musical. It seems so very appropriate now. I guess we knew the day would come and the longing for one more walk would leave us cold like the winter," he said.

Then the thought came to me. You know where thoughts like these come from.

"Do you have a wheel chair?" I asked.

"Yes. On the back porch. We only use it down stairs. I couldn't maneuver her outside. The pathway is not paved," he said.

"Yes, but I can. Tell your wife we're going for a walk. I'll get the chair."

Picture for a moment the three of us outside the Gates of Heaven...their Heaven. We carefully wrapped her in the quilt and added a warm hat. He stood to her left along side the chair holding her mitten clad hand. We began the journey together. Perhaps one last time. But with one stipulation.

"Forget that I am here," I said. "I want this to be your moment together. I will remain quiet and out of the picture. Think of me as the hands of God supporting her."

I tell you as sure as I am writing this, I did indeed feel invisible. It was perhaps more in my mind than reality. But the second we crossed through the gate, I could see her standing there beside him. I was witness to a remarkable moment when he began to sing softly to her. We had stopped for a moment and he knelt down in front of her. It almost looked like he was about to propose. He sang "One more walk along the garden, one more stroll along the shore." Caressing his face, she leaned over and kissed him.

I have no idea how long it took. I wish it could have been forever. One day it will be.

"Thank you! You have no idea what you have done for us," he said.

"You have no idea what you have done for me," I replied. "With your permission this is a story for my next book."

Then his wife reached up, and touching my hand smiled at me. From under her quilt she pulled out a small dried out rose she had plucked along the way. She gestured for me to take it. Pausing for a moment I grabbed her hand and placed it in his.

"He should have the last rose of summer. A flower to remind you both that April is waiting for you."

In all of my remaining days I will forever be grateful that I had taken that walk. You see I walked through Heaven's gate for "One more walk along the Garden."

In closing I need to share this with you. After hearing him sing I realized that I was familiar with that song. I have a CD by Michael Feinstein. It is called the "Burton Lane Songbook Vol 1"

I share some of the words here with you.

"One more walk along the Garden" by Alan Jay Lerner from the stage musical Carmelina (1979)

That old April yearning
Once more is returning
And I have a longing to wander
The leaves may be falling

But April is calling.
And the prim roses beckon me yonder
For one more walk along the garden
one more stroll along the shore.

One more memory I can dream upon
Until I dream no more.
For one more time perhaps the dawn will wait
And one more prayer it's not too late

To gather one more rose
before I say goodbye and close the garden gate.

Bob Perks [email protected]

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