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Heaven’s gate

This past Wednesday was the one year anniversary of the passing of my dear friend, Jill. The Mister and I had a little service in the memorial garden we’re creating in her memory in our backyard, and although I had great hopes the garden would be completed before the 6th, it’s barely begun. The weather, some health issues, and Canada Revenue all conspired against my best laid plan.

Wait. Did you just say, Canada Revenue?

Indeed I did, dear reader.

You see, every year the Canada Revenue Agency selects tax payers at random (so they say) to have their tax returns audited in whole or in part. This year, we were the lucky recipients of a love letter stating that CRA wished to review our charitable donations for the last year to make sure they had made the correct assessment…which I’m pretty sure is code for “We think you’re lying, sweetie.” :-) So instead of working in my wee garden, I was gathering receipts, documents, and folders for the last five years, (thank God I haven’t throw away a receipt since 1966!) plus a trip to our accountant, an hour’s drive away. Not fun. But necessary, I suppose.

But though the garden’s not finished I have made a good start. It’s been raked and leveled in places, and the perimeter tiles have been laid. The morning of the service, the birdbath was set up and filled, and I changed into a gorgeously bright mu mu that Jill never got the chance to see but would have loved. The Mister was downtown to pay for a bouquet of flowers I’d ordered for Jill’s family, a simple, elegant arrangement called Heaven’s Gate – three huge Gerbera daisies, Egyptian orchids, little rose buds, baby’s breath, everything pure white surrounded by a wall of green leaves. I loved it the instant I saw it.

When The Mister returned and changed his clothes, he insisted on putting a sign in the front door window stating that we were out back.

“Why?” I asked.

“In case someone needs to find us.”

“Yeah but, the car’s in the driveway. Wouldn’t they automatically come around back?”

“Oh yeah, probably,” he said tearing off pieces of Scotch tape, completely ignoring me. I tried again.

“Ya know, if you leave a sign that says we’re out back, thieves could easily, EA-SI-LY, break in the front and clean us out, and we’d be none the wiser.”

He looked up from his task.

“It’s happened before,” I assured him. “I saw it on the news.”

He returned to his taping. “Seems to me I heard something about that too,” he said.

Exasperated, I finally said in a most unladylike tone, “I’m not interrupting this service for anyone. I don’t care who it is. Jesus himself could come to the door and I’m still not interrupting this service!”

He looked at me over his shoulder and raised an eyebrow.

“OK. Maybe for Jesus. But no one else. I mean it!”

“I get it,” he said, closing the inside door. “So what are we waiting for?”

We stood under the trees in a warm breeze, facing each other on either side of the birdbath, and took turns reading a selection of prayers and poems and the beautiful tribute written on Jill’s memorial card by her daughter. We ended with The Mister reading the poem I had read at Jill’s funeral – “Death is nothing at all” by Henry Scott Holland. There were tears and hugs and a smile or two. Seems The Mister picked up a few mosquito bites during the service, but my mu mu kept fluttering like a flag the whole time we were out, and I was bothered not a bit. Then we went back inside for some lunch and to share some memories of our friend, but before anything else, The Mister removed his sign from the door.

“Honestly, I don’t understand why you found that necessary.”

He shrugged. “Oh, you never know” was all he’d say.

We’d just finished our meal when there came a knock at the front door. The Mister answered it, and lo and behold, it was the delivery person for our florist holding the beautiful Heaven’s Gate.

“Oh, for Pete’s sake!” I muttered jumping up from the table and hurrying to the door. “They must have confused the billing address with the delivery address! Which means Jill’s family hasn’t received anything yet!”

I reached the door and said, “No! There’s been a mistake! This isn’t right!” But The Mister just smiled and winked at the delivery person and sent her on her merry way closing the door behind her.

“You don’t understand,” I said getting frustrated again, “there’s been a mistake! They’ve mixed up the addresses. We’ve got to get this over to the family!”

“There’s been no mistake,” he said gently. “These are for you.”

“They are?” I said in a small voice. “From who? And remember, if you make me cry, I may slap you.”

“From me.”

He put the flowers on the table and took me in his arms. “You’re grieving Jill like she’s a member of your own family. Her family is receiving beautiful flowers today and I wanted you to have the same.”

“That’s why you put the sign in the door window, isn’t it? So you wouldn’t miss the delivery?”

“Yup. Still feel like slapping me?”

“Oh geez!” I hiccuped against his shoulder. “Maybe later.”

Heaven’s Gate now has pride of place in the middle of all the other plants in our living room, or as my dear sister Chris dubbed it, ‘the Botanical Garden.’ And I’m still overwhelmed every time I look at it. A beautiful link between the living and the dead. A symbol of presence, generosity, thoughtfulness, and family. And a reminder that Love goes around, and comes around, and never stops moving in our lives if we keep our hearts open.

To my dear friend, Happy Anniversary!

And to my Mister…thanks.

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  1. Valerie Hess
    Posted July 9, 2016 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    A wonderful story! May Jill’s memory be eternal. She is lucky to have such a good friend as you. Blessings as you continue to grieve.

    • Penny-Anne
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 12:22 am | Permalink

      What a lovely blessing to wish someone’s memory be eternal. Thank you, Valerie.

  2. Joannie
    Posted July 9, 2016 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    Heaven’s Gate – what a beautiful phrase for beautiful flowers. I, too, love white flowers with greenery. Once again your writing takes one to the place of which you’re writing. Your friend, Jill, was a very lucky woman to have such a dear friend as you. I believe, wherever she is, she knows exactly what happened on the first anniversary of her death. And that she’s smiling.

    • Penny-Anne
      Posted July 10, 2016 at 12:16 am | Permalink

      Thank you, Joannie! I too was blessed to have a friend like Jill. Never knew how much love I was capable of.

  3. Heather
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 1:36 am | Permalink

    So happy you have the love of your sweet mister. Hugs.

    • Penny-Anne
      Posted July 11, 2016 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

      Aw, thanks Heather!

  4. Karen Rockwell
    Posted July 10, 2016 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Oh Penny-Anne! Such a lovely service – I’m sure Jill enjoyed it and then went to hang out in the botanical garden to witness your surprise. And how wonderful to see the love between you and Tony. I am so moved! (Remind me that I may need to slap you when is see you next.) ;0)

    • Penny-Anne
      Posted July 11, 2016 at 4:57 pm | Permalink

      Hee hee! Will do, sister!

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