I was fortunate enough to have a very knowledgeable neighbor and friend who guided me through the gardening process from tilling to planting, and from weeding to harvesting. My 80 year old neighbor and I bonded over our love of tomatoes and nature. He would smile his little quirky smile and say 'tomato sandwiches are better than kisses' (lol). He was a caring and humorous man, bringing a smile to everyone he came in contact with. I so much enjoyed his company.
I have to say that summer, him and his wife, became my best friends. Their years of knowledge, concerning gardening and life in general were much appreciated. Their honesty and values offered such a refreshing view on the world around me. In addition, their appreciation for all things morale and good reminded me of why my husband was gone, and why I must persevere. I looked forward to caring for my garden and seeing them everyday. My garden, and their friendship, made the deployment fly by like no other had before. I was truly fortunate and thankful for them being brought into my life. I became a avid gardener and a better person for knowing them.
As our crops started to grow, just before our first tomatoes came into season, our dear friend, suffered a massive stroke. Soon after, he was called home to his heavenly father. I was only eight years old when my grandfather passed. It felt just as sad to loose my dear friend and neighbor.
He had become family.
I did not know what to do, except to care for his garden along with mine. I have to admit part of me felt like just ripping out the whole garden in anger but as I sat in his garden crying, I felt an amazing sense of calmness. I began to realize that even though he was not here physically, what he loved still was. His garden, his wife, his home and family. In this moment I knew his knowledge and friendship would remain in my heart forever. Even though he had passed, his spirit remained in that very garden. I got up and started weeding and watering and talking to him. I found myself laughing at memories and doing things he taught me as if it was second nature. He always said to me I was a natural farmer, though, I know he taught me so much more than I think even he realized.
As the season comes to an end, as it always does, a bit of sadness seems to creep into my heart. I know next year I will be on my own. I won't be able to run over and ecstatically share my happiness with my friend when spring arrives but, I know he will be watching over. I know he would tell me to get my fanny out there and start a garden! So..I will. I will, in dedication to him, each and every year.
Friendship is the most bountiful of gardens you can grow.
It comes back year after year with a little maintenance and dedication.
It is never time lost.
It always endures.
Rest in peace my dear friend, and feel free to pick a few tomatoes when you 'stop by' to check on us. I'm growing some just for you, after all.. I hear tomato sandwiches are better than kisses. :)