~~~~~~~~~~~~~Two weeks ago I posted a rather personal story under the heading "Things Happen for a Reason." It was an account of how, by happenstance, a young widow gifted Rosanne and I with an assortment of vegetables from her dead husband's garden. The story touched the hearts of many readers of Wrights Lane and for that reason I feel that an update is warranted.
Those who read the original story will recall that we did not get the name of the woman who entered our lives in such an impactful way in a Tim Horton's parking lot and of my wish to eventually meet her again. (For refreshment purposes, the original "Roger's Vegetables..." item is reproduced at the conclusion of this post.)
Well, just as miraculous as our first meeting and every bit as co-incidental, I thought that I recognized the woman placing an order at the same Tim Horton's late last week. "Excuse me, are you the person who gave us some vegetables from your late husband's garden?" I asked. The audible gasp and subsequent embrace told me that she was indeed "that" woman.
"I've been hoping that I'd see you again," she said.
A wide-ranging, non-stop, 10-minute conversation ensued during which we shared personal information. I told "Liz" that I had written about her and gave her the link to Wrights Lane. We have met several times since then and our supply of Roger's vegetables has been substantially replenished. I've even heard from a sister-in-law, Katherine, who is married to Roger's older brother. Our new friendship continues to grow and snowball.
I have discovered a brave and articulate 50-year-old woman with a kind heart and infectious smile -- the type of person who radiates warmth. You feel like you have always known her. In an email message to me earlier this week she revealed some things about her self that are reflective of her unique character. She is the mother of three (two teenagers) and the grandmother of one.
Widowhood is a whole new domain for Liz. "A walk through no-man's land," as she puts it. She talked about her journey, her "lifeboat" crew and the new life that lays ahead for her.
"There are no road maps for this journey. Many women have worn the path smooth, and yet it is still rocky for me," Liz explained. "Friends and family hold you up for the first few days as one blindly moves through a time warp of surreal proportions. Then over the course of the next few weeks you find out who the real lifeboat crew are going to be."
She continued: "My dear friend Celia and I both turned 50 this year. She started a lifeboat list -- a careful reflection of one's world and the names of those we wanted in our lifeboat if and when the ship was sinking. We each came up with a mental list.
"Who knew just a few weeks later that my boat would in fact sink with as much forewarning as the Titanic. I went from listening on Friday, June 29, as a doctor told my husband that she had found possible tumors during an endoscopy, to being told they were performing aggressive life support and finally holding him as he slipped away on the 3rd. of July."
Celia held on to Liz, draped across her back, as life slipped away from Roger. She then got out the paddles and started rowing her to safety. Somehow they got through telling the children, arranging a funeral, standing through a visitation of over 150 people and saying goodbye. They were a very quiet family that kept to themselves. Liz had friends, but no big social circles.
"Celia steered our lifeboat and many helped her -- people from my list and to my surprise, a number who I had not considered," Liz went on to explain. "Some people I assumed would be in my lifeboat, jumped ship and swam quickly in the other direction. Others paddled furiously for a day or two and then slipped beneath the waters of their own grief.
"When it was time to finally move on and to stand on my own two feet -- a little doddery and with a sometimes painfully forced smile -- I let my lifeboat crew take a well-deserved rest. One day I will need to paddle for them with as much energy as they gave me, or more.
"It was during this period that I met you and your lovely wife. I think that Roger gave me a little nudge towards new friends.
"So to my new friends, Dick and Rosanne, 'thank you'. You are a prime example of why my children and I have decided to stay on in Port Elgin. We had planned on retiring here anyway. Roger's soul is here, his garden is here and our life will be here."
Roger passed away at a cancer centre in Hamilton, near his hometown of Beamsville. He will be interred in the Port Elgin Cemetery later this month in a lovely columbarium looking out over towering maple trees. "We will walk one step at a time through our new lives," concludes Liz.
I know that I speak for Rosanne when I assure this wonderful young woman who is the same age as our oldest daughter, that we will be with her every step of the way. God is our witness.
Yes, things do happen for a reason...And people come into our lives for a reason. People always need people!
And yet, it all still gives us cause to think -- and to wonder.
ROGER'S VEGETABLES: THE ORIGINAL STORY
More often than not, when something happens in my life, it isn’t long before I can see why. And when I understand the reason why something happened – whether that “something” was good or bad – I get a sense that something, or Someone, has had a hand in my life, or that a anachronistic energy is at work, or some power is putting events into place quite consciously with my/our highest good in mind.
I cannot pass up the opportunity to share with my readers an incident that happened to Rosanne and I today. Most unusual, touching, coincidental -- predestined in retrospect.
We were sitting in the parking lot of our local Tim Horton's this afternoon enjoying a refreshing Ice Cap with a shot of Espresso. Because of the bright sun we did not park in our usual handicapped spot, opting instead for the partially shaded protection of the front entrance. Rosanne had just expressed a craving for Borscht (Ukrainian beet soup) and was wondering if the weather was too hot to make it. A van momentarily pulled up beside us and a pleasant-looking middle-aged woman got out and opened the side door of her vehicle, pulling out two large plastic bags overflowing with green leaves. Obviously, vegetables of some kind. Rosanne said she thought she saw beet greens, marvelling at the coincidence.
Very curious, I thought. Why was she going into Tim Horton's with something like that?
In a matter of minutes she returned to her van, hesitating as she again opened her side door. "Do you people have a garden?" she asked through Rosanne's open window.
"No we don't," we replied simultaneously (due primarily to my recent hip replacement surgery).
"Well would you like some cucumbers? I was going to give them to some ladies but they are not here today", she explained.
"Of course," said Rosanne..."How much do we owe you?"
"Nothing. They're from my husband's garden and he just died. I have far more than I can ever use now. Here, would you like some beets and kohlrabi too? You might as well have it all, if you would like."
"Oh, thank you so much," said Rosanne. "I'm Ukrainian and we'll make some Borscht...We just love beets!"
I can't believe it," said our benefactor, top lip quivering. I just knew there was something special about you and I don't even know your name. My husband was Ukrainian too and he would be so pleased that I am giving this to you."
Rosanne, being Rosanne, immediately welled up. The emotion was just too much for her to contain. "I'm so sorry. What was your husband's name?" she asked, tears streaming down her cheeks.
"His name was Roger and he was as much Ukrainian as you could get," she explained with a forced smile as she settled behind the steering wheel of her vehicle. "Don't be sad," she added..."Roger sent me to you!"
"Enjoy your borscht!"
With that, she pulled away from her parking spot and was gone. It all happened so quickly that we did not think to get her name. We sat silent for a few minutes, processing what had just transpired.
We'll toast Roger tonight...and make some Borscht in his honor tomorrow. Maybe even throw in a little kohlrabi for good measure.
Rosanne and I will continue to rationalize all of this in the next few days. One thing for sure, we are glad that Roger chose to connect with us in such a special and unusual way. We will not rest until we meet his dear widow once again...We need her to know that we totally understand and appreciate this other-worldly happenstance that she initiated ever so spontaneously. If it is meant to be, it will happen.