November 29, 2021
Reflections, Day 49
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
The tree was showing off its winter colors as the sun sank into the cold western sky. I stopped and smiled. I said, “hello,” and tipped my cap toward the house across the street. That’s where Shannen lived
You see, this is a special tree. I met Shannen about ten years ago. She was my across-the-street neighbor and the horticulture instructor at Northwest Georgia Technical College, and since she was the horticulture instructor, we had a lot in common. We became friends. I could talk with her about plants and about some of her students. She was interested in my work that I did and she loved my Redneck books.
But there was another thing about Shannen. She suffered from cancer and had been in treatment for years. It seems that the cancer would go into remission and then show back up a year or so later. I always admired the way she handled living with the disease and she was an inspiration to me as I went through a long period of cancer treatments. It wasn’t that we talked about our travails all that much—it was just that we shared a positive attitude and that made things easy to handle.
One time she asked me to do a presentation on pruning for one of her classes. I asked her to prepare them for my vocal problems and she laughed, “John, they’ve known about you and your journey for a long time. They would love to see you and to learn what you know.” We had a good time with that class.
One day, though, Shannen called and said she needed someone to talk to. I walked across the street and we sat in her living room. She said, “They told me that there are no more treatments. The doctor said that they will make me comfortable but that there was not much hope.”
And we talked and talked. Shannen left us about five years ago, but before she left, she asked me to take care of a few of her special plants after she passed. She didn’t want them to die. I promised.
After Shannen’s funeral, I brought two large flower pots home from her house. One was a stick in a pot of dirt. I didn’t know what it was, but I took care of it. The other plant was a hard-to-find weeping Japanese maple. I planted it in our front yard directly across from Shannen’s living room window so it would be visible for her to keep an eye on. The tree has thrived.
And that’s why I stopped and grinned when I saw the tree shining in the evening sun yesterday. And that’s why I tipped my cap toward the window. I felt her presence. The other plant is a story in itself and it lives in the Rome Clocktower garden now. It is happy.
Power to the plant people as they visit us periodically.
One thought on “A Very Special Japanese Maple”
Oh my, this is a somewhat sad post because your friend Shannen lost her battle with the insidious disease called cancer. But John, you found the positive out of the negative and shared where you planted her Japanese maple tree. Surely she is looking down from Heaven and is very pleased at where you chose to plant it. That was so thoughtful on your part. I hope your current across-the-street neighbors are enjoying looking out their living room window and seeing it.