Certainly there are days in everyone’s lives when we’re transported back in time to places where the faces of those that have gone before us emerge in our waking thoughts. Sometimes it’s the smell of something baking that reminds me of the homemade buns the little old lady down the road handed out to begging children. She rises up before me with her smiling face, white hair always in a braid and pinned up, and the out of style dark blue dresses she religiously wore. She was a widow who lived quietly modest and carried on the rest of her life as the noble widow who likely raised a nest of children who flew off in directions far and wide. Those chirping children were perhaps her last connections to earlier years where she felt needed and loved. For those small yet great acts of kindness, she continues to live in the hearts of those she touched. She is likely now about 140 years old and in spirit still handing out freshly baked and buttered buns.
From years ago a I recall persnickety old widower who looked after his deceased wife’s flower garden by tending to every need of those many perennials, including the giant rose bushes. The garden was securely fenced with an entrance via a locked gate. I just happened to have the home listed next door and from time to time I would see him out in the garden at his usual guarded distance. I’m sure he worked at having few exchanges with neighbors and society in general. I was waiting outside my listing one sunny day for a buyer to arrive who happened to be late. I noticed the neighbor trimming roses in the center of his flower garden. He purposely had his back to me so not to encourage conversation. The owners of the home had warned me about their neighbor with instructions not to bother him because he didn’t like talking to people. I was so taken by the beauty of the flowering rose bushes that I couldn’t help myself by saying loud enough for him to hear, “Mr. ________, when I was young on the farm, I used to help my mother with her roses, but yours are so much more beautiful.” He paused a moment and after a quick glance at me, continued pruning. I then said, “I always loved the smell of the heritage roses like you have.” He paused again a bit longer and then resumed clipping. The buyers arrived and I proceeded to show the home and left as usual with a quick glance back at the widower who just happened to be peeking in my direction. Several days later, I was back out to the home and while proceeding up the front steps, I heard someone calling after me. “Mr. Chodur. Would you please stop over before you leave?” I looked in the direction of the voice and saw the widower standing at the fence line. I acknowledged his invitation, and when finished with the buyer, I walked over to the gate which he had unlocked and noticed him motioning for me to come forward where he was standing near his wife’s roses. He had one of his hands behind his back and as I approached he took his arm around and offered me a small bouquet of freshly cut heritage roses. He meekly said, “Give these to someone you believe deserving.” I was nearly speechless by not only his reaching out to me, but also by his selfless generosity. I told him I would take them to my mother who lived here in the city. After that, every time I smell heritage roses, I think of him even after these long years. I’m convinced that those who have passed are still with us simply because of the triggering of memories they helped create.
In some cultures there are special places in homes where keepsakes of those who’ve long passed are positioned to act as reminders of deceased family members. These shrines of sorts are sometimes many generations in the making. I’m sure it’s their way of keeping their ancestors with them and especially help guide them during troubling times. I’m sure you’ve heard someone say, “I wonder what she would have done were she still alive.” These are examples of keeping those who are deceased dear to us, and in a way, still with us in spirit.
I lit a candle tonight for someone that passed some years ago who was very dear to me, and I hope her spirit continues to live in the hearts of those who loved her with the help of my modest candle flickering violet.