A Life for All Seasons – Bob McMahon
Hannah stood outside the patio doors and marveled at the beautiful display of daffodils. She had planted the bulbs some four months previously and now, in early April, the flowers had blossomed into a vibrant cascade of yellow. She loved gardening. Aged thirty six, married with two young sons, she was content with life. Her job took in only three mornings a week which left her enough time for the kids and the garden.
As she pottered about in the early spring sunshine, her contented life took a massive jolt when the telephone rang inside the house. Her brother had been diagnosed with cancer. She was stunned. He was only three years older than her and they had grown up as close as could be.
She stood in a daze staring at the rows of daffodils.
It was three months on from the day of that phone call. Lung cancer, with chronic obstruction pulmonary disease. ‘COPD’ they called it. What the hell did she care how the bloody medics termed it? Her brother was dying. Less than a year to live they said. The doctors had been professional and supportive, devising a treatment plan which involved either radiotherapy or chemotherapy. They had talked about small cell cancer, breathing problems and lymph nodes. But all she knew was that her brother wouldn’t be around for much longer.
She strolled in her garden and admired the freesia plants now in full bloom. Inside her mind she lamented that the beautiful flowers also had a short-term life span. In a few weeks they would also be gone.
She was angry. He had been a smoker. ‘So what,’ she thought. Wasn’t he entitled to some small pleasure in life? Did pleasure always have to have a downside? Did the scales have to be balanced? What was the point of pleasure if it had to end in despair? She was angry with herself, angry with her brother, the hospital staff and everything connected to cancer.
The leaves were turning orange and brown now as autumn approached. ‘It was always like that,’ she thought, ‘new life, sparkling colours and fragrance, and then the downside.’
Her worst time. It was too cold to go out into the garden. The flowers had withered and died. The trees were bare, and there was a long wait before spring arrived, and with it, new life.
Her brother’s health had steadily declined and she knew that the end was close now. Winter cast long dark shadows across the garden as she stared vacantly out of the window.
The funeral was sad, and she thought how much life mirrored all that went on in her garden. You sowed the seeds and planted the bulbs. Then, by some miracle, they blossomed into beautiful specimens to be admired by all – just like her brother. Slowly the plants ended their life and disappeared, to be replaced by the long shadows of winter.
She stood in the church and read the eulogy. ‘Only the mountains and the stars last forever. All things share the same breath. The beast, the tree, and the man. Life is the shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.
There was a tear and a smile when Hannah noticed the bright yellow daffodils arranged within the church.