The Flowers in the Garden of my Friends


My father had two British friends, a married couple, who had at some point taken up residence in the small town where we lived. I remember they had a black, cast iron lion and unicorn on either side of the stone doorstep of their home. In addition, for years I had two small china ornaments they had given me. I don’t know how old I was when I visited with them, perhaps four or five. I can recall only their kindly smiles. When they passed on, they were buried in our local cemetery.

Two pink granite headstones marked their resting place. They were large, highly polished stones, and stood out among the simpler monuments. Every Memorial Day my father would purchase flowers and plant them on their graves. Although I don’t recall his telling me anything about them, they must have been special friends to him. He was one who believed in honoring those who had passed on. His own father died in World War I, when he was only eight years old.

For me especially, Memorial Day brings to mind my dear ones who have passed me on the road to the larger life, where they have their next assignment–whatever it may be. I have pictures of them, both in my mind and in reality, where I can catch a glimpse of them as they once were. Occasionally, though especially when I’m engaged in a task in my kitchen, I catch a whisper from someone I loved dearly and still do. They come into my mind and I see them smile as they used to do when we were together. It is as if they are telling me they are happy and well.

There is a smooth stone on my coffee table inscribed with these words: “My friends are the loveliest flowers in the garden of my life.” I treasure it as a memento from someone special who lit up my life for a time a few years ago. We were near neighbors and saw one another almost very day. A brave and valiant woman, she was a wonderful example of positive aging. Though she had many difficulties and illnesses she scarcely ever complained and did the best she could to carry on in a cheerful fashion.

In my mind, while I am fixing dinner, I often hear another of my late friends with whom I had many phone conversations: “What are you having for dinner that’s good?” she would ask. We would chat about cooking and trade ideas. In my recipe collection I have one of hers written out in her own handwriting. When I make a recipe  I was given by a late friend, it is especially tasty because of my recollection of its origin. How precious are the memories of those we have loved and now lost to time.

Memories of loving friends who have pasted on are such a treasure. They are a bouquet fragrant with the perfume blended from our combined experiences, the times we have shared, the gifts we have given one another. Memorial Day brings to mind many memories of my dear ones no longer within reach of the telephone or email. As I turn them over in my mind, I feel again the love we shared. I see again their smiles and welcoming arms and I have no doubt one day we will meet and share again.

A Valentine to Lost Loves


When I was eight years old my dear nurse, Emily left to get married. She had taken care of me since I was around eighteen months of age and was in most respects my second mother. She was a practical nurse. That meant besides looking after me, she helped with household chores as well as driving me where I might need to go. She was a devoted caretaker and when she left I missed her sorely. While my own mother loved me dearly, she loved me in her own way. Unlike Emily she was not a physically affectionate person. Also she had much higher expectations of me than Emily did.

When I was twelve, my friend and classmate Sally went away to boarding school. A bookish, unathletic, somewhat plump child, I had no interest in the things my classmates did, and neither did she. As a result from the third to the seventh grade we formed a team of two, and I defended her from the bullies that taunted her for her shyness. I missed her sadly. She lived in a big house by the ocean and our idyllic summers were spent swimming and playing tennis in her private court. Her freezer always held a tub of ice cream and we could make cones when we wanted. When we reached sixteen and I began dating, despite my efforts to remain close, we drifted apart. She had been my best and only friend. She remained distant.

Once I was married and had children I became friends with woman whose two boys were around the age of my two girls. We all went everywhere together. She had a wonderful voice and we used to sing folk songs at our children’s school. We even performed in a contest. Very close, we spoke on the phone almost daily. Then for some reason she became angry with me and disappeared from my life. For months I was devastated. Later on I had another friend I went to the beach with each day. Sadly, after several years she went back to Germany and never returned. By then I was beginning to learn what it was to lose someone I loved, and how to handle it; I was able to recover faster.

Throughout my long life I have had many opportunities to learn to live with loss. I had to come to terms with son’s death when he was twenty-eight, and as I grew older, my parents passing. More lately have come the deaths of others I loved. As time has gone on, these experiences have helped me learn to let loved ones go with a more peaceful heart. I have discovered that I do not need to stop thinking about them, nor do I need to regret their absence. I can take the images of them together with the memories of our time together and put them lovingly in a special album I keep in my heart. Then when I wish to I can open it, turn the pages and smile as I remember with joy the good times we had and the love we shared.

Tasha Halpert

Tidiness by Tasha Halpert

New Home 1          Once upon a time it was quite usual for a household to have someone who was paid to help out. this person might live in or come in to work there during the day. There were not as many conveniences as we have today, and my mother was happy to have someone to help with the household tasks as well as my care and do what she couldn’t always manage to get done.

I don’t remember how old I was when Emily came to live with us. I believe I was around two or three to help my mother around the house and also look after me. She also taught me a great deal about being tidy. I loved her dearly and she loved me as well. I still have many pictures she took of me when I was small. We did many things together and had lots of fun. When I was eight she left to get married. I missed her very much. I remember thinking if I was very good and kept my room the way she liked, maybe she would come back.

I believe Emily’s encouragement inspired my fondness for the tidiness I still practice today. I can remember her encouraging me to put my toys in a row, lining them up neatly. Later, when I was older I enjoyed putting my doll house in order, arranging and rearranging the furniture and putting the dolls that lived there where they belonged. As an only child until I was eight and a half, I had to make use of my imagination to entertain myself. Both Emily and my mother encouraged me to be creative. I made the stories and plays I wrote into small books, carefully sewed together. Rebuses–stories with pictures for some of the words were favorites to make.

Today I also prefer order because it helps me find things. If I know where I put something I can easily find what I need when I need it. Toward that end I try to put whatever I use often back in its designated space as soon as I am finished with it. Because I feel it is such a waste of time to have to hunt for things, I have special places to put important items like car keys, eye glasses, pocketbooks, shoes, and so on. I also make lists of what I need to do, another form of making and keeping order. Being organized is an aspect of tidiness. A difficulty with this is that not everyone is equally tidy.

Stephen, unlike me needs to have things where he can see them or put his hand on them easily. This leads to piles and untidy heaps of items that to me are all higgly piggly with no sense of order. It also makes it difficult for Stephen to see what he needs when he needs it, so that I often have to help him to locate items that get buried. He does not deliberately bury items, it just happens that there are too many things of immediate interest in one place. Still, after 38 years of being together I have learned to relax and allow for his way of keeping things available. At the same time, I rejoice that I can usually find what I want relatively quickly.