To everything there is a season
And a time to every purpose under heaven
I’ve come to realize over the years that some people seem to time their deaths.
I first realized this when a man named Bill Frass died.
Bill was a kind, gentle and happy soul.
He was also an Iris fanatic.
A plant your entire backyard to Iris kind of fanatic.
I first encountered Bill when my neighbor Geraldine shared some of his Iris with me.
After that he was my guide at the annual Iris Society rhizome sale each July.
But the thing is Iris only bloom for a few short glorious weeks each spring.
Somehow Bill managed to die while they were blooming.
His fellow Iris fanatics cut their precious children for his funeral.
The room was filled with Iris.
Full of the scent and aura that was Bill.
What a send off.
I’ve also read about Henry Mitchell.
For years he was the garden writer for the Washington Post.
He died after an afternoon of plating Daffodils with a friend.
Leaving this world with dirt under your fingernails
Having planted the hope of spring.
I like this plan.
But for me the most poignant is the story of when my father died.
It was two years ago this week.
My father was many things.
Most of all he was a farmer.
His life would take him to meet world leaders
Their conversation would more often than not be about farming.
But there came a time in his late 80’s to stop his active involvement in farming.
It’s a gut wrenching decision echoed by families all through the farm belt.
His decision was made in typical Henry style.
Get the facts – make the decision – don’t look back.
So it was that spring that he came to his last harvest.
Elliott came home to be a part of his own history.
The wheat was cut.
It was a record crop.
Daddy had selected a young local man to rent his land.
J. Russell began that process.
All through that summer Daddy came three times a week to my home for lunch.
That had been his pattern for several years.
He could no longer stroll through my garden.
Instead we would sit in the breakfast room and watch the garden grow and change.
We would talk gardening, farming and politics.
I had a sense something was changing but didn’t know what.
He was winding down.
I think I’ve mentioned his theory on color in the garden.
Then there is my theory.
Everything but red.
Except in late summer
When the cockscomb takes over.
It’s the only red flower I grow.
It blooms wildly
Actually out of control this time of year.
There is one non red flower Daddy liked.
A late summer blanket on the prairie.
And so it was to be.
His last days came when his beloved country side was covered in Maximillian Sunflowers.
And cockscomb filled my garden.
The Wednesday before his Saturday services
Elliott and I drove through the countryside and cut sunflowers, cattails and maize.
Actually we stole the maize from the field of an old friend.
Along the way we laughed and cried a little and remembered.
We basked in the glory of the sunshine and a life well lived.
We took it all to the florist who filled two urns with fabulous arrangements.
They flanked Daddy as friends came from across the state
To say goodbye.
To tell stories to his grandsons.
To celebrate his life.
At the same time I asked my local florist Ryan to go to my garden
Cut everything he needed to make the casket flowers.
Make it red.
It is true.
To everything there is a season.
Even for giant spiders. Sloan and Cassidy just came by on their nightly spider check. It’s gone….till next season.