A week ago today, my cousin Mindy left us, following a different path on her journey. It’s been a busy week, interspersed with sadness and joy, celebrations and reflections. She’s never been far from my thoughts. I’ve been able to spend time with Mindy’s son Harry this week as well, watching this bright, soulful young man literally grow up overnight as he has assumed responsibilities most 19 years never imagine.
I spent time in Neosho today, staying at the house while Harry was at school. These early anniversaries of loss are tough. Every Thursday, for a while, Harry will remember. I will remember. Mindy’s friends will remember. It’s part of the grieving process. Then the 8th of each month will bring a fresh wave of sadness and memory, and finally, each year January 8 will be a day of sorrow, mixed with more and more fond memories as time marches on.
Today, the loss is still fresh. The house was quiet and yet Mindy’s presence was strong and signs of her life were everywhere….the wool hooked rugs that she crafted so beautifully, her coat flung casually over a chair, a box of tea in the kitchen. Mindy’s pugs, which were her fur babies, watched me with big eyes. Mindy loved these little dogs, calling one Bella and the other Rudy.
It was a beautiful day, cool but with brilliant sunshine and just the tiniest promise of spring. Gathering leashes, I took Bella and Rudy for a long walk, savoring the warmth and the bright light that slanted through the trees in the park near Harry’s house. I let the dogs set the pace, so we ambled, stopping frequently, and that was fine with me. It fit perfectly my somber, reflective mood. In my heart, I talked to Mindy, telling her how proud I was of Harry. The dogs snuffled around the base of a large tree and as I stepped forward, something crunched beneath my feet. Looking down, I saw the ground covered in acorns. I was beneath an old oak tree and acorns and their tiny “caps” were scattered in a wide circle around the tree. My heart beat a little faster and I searched among the dried leaves for a perfect acorn to pick up.
The dogs came over to see what I had found as I at last spied what I was seeking. Smiling, I held the small brown nut in my hand. There is a deeply moving scene, in the final Hobbit movie, that made me smile even as tears filled my eyes. Thorin sees Bilbo holding an object in his hand and demands to see it. Bilbo opens his fist to reveal a small acorn. He picked it up in Beorn’s garden, he tells Thorin. He intends to plant it when he gets back to the Shire. Bilbo says he will care for the tree that grows and every time he sees the oak tree he will remember his journey, all of it, the good and the not so good. Thorin says it is a poor reward for his adventure but to Bilbo, it is a precious treasure and one he has carried and cherished for a long time.
That scene flashed through my mind as I cupped my own small acorn in my palm. What a significant find today. I will cherish this treasure as a reminder of my journey this year…all of it…the good and the not so good. I won’t plant the seed, as Bilbo did, however every time I see this acorn, I will remember, and smile. Bilbo’s treasure grew into a mighty oak tree that later in the story, became known as the Party Tree. Bilbo hosted his birthday party each year beneath that tree and memory and celebration become entwined.
And so it shall be for me. The memory associated with this small acorn, with the passage of time, will sprout into a mighty framework beneath which, I will celebrate… this year, this journey, Mindy. On January 8, of each future year, I will hold my treasure, and remember and rejoice. The pugs gave me quizzical looks. However, I felt Mindy’s approval, and the light around me shifted and brightened and the warmth was surely from a source beyond the sun. With quiet joy, and an acorn in my pocket, we headed home.