One Last Time


 

 

The potatoes he helped grow are slow to cook

Over the hot fire, as if reluctant

To have this final meal with him.

This gardener came here four years ago, wounded

By a life of chaos, bad dreams pushing him down.

This fenced place was sanctuary, the garden

Growing his soul, lighting his passions, teaching him to

Love the earth, his new life, then himself.

 

I stir the stew, blaming the smoke for my tears, realizing

He will fly soon into the world, towards his dreams.

The wounded boy now a man ,blossoming with promise,

New days bright and welcoming.

 

Waiting around the fire, we talk of this place, how his feet became

Grounded in new love for bugs and dirt, new seedlings of

Peace, growing into a teacher of tender young men.

He, healing souls, leading the way out of the garden —

So many saplings ready to be planted in fertile soil.

 

We eat slowly, savoring the stew, and the special dish he made

Just for us, his final act of kindness here.

Telling more stories, we warm our souls around the fire.

 

–Neal Lemery, October 18, 2016

Saying Goodbye


October is a month of goodbyes. Summer has left, the calendar turns to another school year, leaves are turning, and people are getting back to their normal lives after the vacations and activities of another season. The warm sun has left and the rains have returned, with shorter days and colder nights, reminding me of the wheel of life.

This year, there are other goodbyes. Two of my young men I’ve been mentoring these past five, six years are packing up and moving on with their lives. One is going back to his home town, eager to find a job and begin the next chapter of his life. The other is soon off to adult prison, to serve four more years.

Today was our last day in the garden and greenhouse together. Their leaving was the elephant in the living room, and we were all beyond saying goodbye and making speeches around the fire. I was close to tears, and I sensed we were all just beyond words.

Our five years or six years together is a long time, especially in the lives of these young men. I’ve seen them mature, and gain insight and wisdom. They’ve become much better gardeners, and grown into healthy, productive young men.

They look at me and the other adults working in the garden as teachers, but they have both taught me so much about life and about courage and determination. We are friends and have been since almost the beginning of our time together.

Once again, I have learned the lesson of enjoying each precious moment with a good friend, and not assuming that good times together will just keep happening. Time has a way of cutting things short, reminding me that each day is a gift, something that is precious and cherished.

I’m often the doting parent, fussing over my kids. I worry that they are not yet ready to leave the nest and move on. But, they must. My task is to teach them how to fly and then let them go. I have done what I have needed to do, and now they must fly.

I say goodbye, and I will watch them flap their wings and soar into the sky and the next chapter in their young lives. I will cry, too, and I will miss their smiles and curiosity the next time I come to the garden, knowing that they are now strong young gardeners, able to tend their own gardens and keep growing strong and true.