Flowers for Mary
The rain is pelting the corrugated iron of the shop. I lost my neighbour yesterday. Mary died after a valiant battle against cancer, her beautiful daughter bravely caring for her, trying to anticipate needs, knowing each moment was a step closer to the end, and wanting only the best for her mothers passing. It is a month since we hugged, knowing she was very unwell, but not knowing it would be the last time. Now I am preparing the feast for her wake.
It took me back to Ngaire, who was taken last year. Ngaire was a remarkable woman of mature years, an academic, practical and elegant, a woman of stature who would not tolerate fools at all, let alone lightly. She zoomed down on her mobile, despite being told she should not leave the hospice, as she said the vanilla gelato was the only thing which kept the nausea at bay. She had a presence, even in illness, and we got on famously. Her brother brought her down the night before she died.
And Ambrose and Brooklyn have had a beautiful baby boy, whom Brooklyn brought to show me yesterday. A new life, fresh and pink with care. I thought back to preparing food for their wedding, and in the first few days when nobody else knew of Thomas's impending arrival, sending ginger syrup home with her mother to help with morning sickness.
I have celebrated children's first days of kindergarten and school, other's last days of college, called solicitors to advise girls who were struggling with husbands playing up, packed hampers for couples' first days in the rest home, tried not to cry with grown men who have had their driver's license revoked for failing memory and eyesight and are facing the realities of dependency in old age . I have made coffee for customers on dismal days with umbrellas blown inside out, shivering from the damp Auckland cold, but moreso from vivid recollections of tramping through snow in Kosovo, insufficiently clothed, with nothing except their lives, seeing parents leaving children and old people on the roadside to save other members, trying not to feel lucky they were not forced to choose. Children come into the shop, ditch their bags and tell me stories, stories about their lives, their girlfriends, their boyfriends, their dreams, their inadequacies, what is good and what is sad for them.
And in return, I have learnt new skills, new music, and unburdened my own woes at times when I have been at a loss with difficult suppliers, technology problems, and everyday issues of living and trying to learn a business.
I think I have seen more of life from this tiny shop in the last eighteen months than in the ten years prior. I guess this is how it used to be, an older lady in the local store, administering groceries, help and exchanging a little love. I am so grateful to be part of these lives.
I miss you, Mary. God bless you and keep you, and yours.