So, get this crazy story:
For months I have thought that I want to plant a tree for mike in our backyard with his ashes in the soil underneath. I thought about doing it on the anniversary of his death - but that just doesn't feel right. Finally a couple of months ago, I figured that planting it on our anniversary would be ideal.
The problem was, I couldn't seem to get my act together to go get the tree. Everytime I imagined going to purchase the tree, I imagined having the hassle with the people who worked at the store, having to pay for it and struggling to get it to my car, wondering if it would fit blah blah blah. It made the whole thing seem so... ordinary and tied to the bullshit of normal life. I felt like all that would take the beauty away from the experience. So, I never went.
Wednesday, June 13th (day before anniversary), I'm in my office at Delaware and Heide calls me.
"Hey, you working?"
"Yeah, I'm at the office."
"Oh.. that's too bad. I was going to ask if you wanted to take a little trip with me to a nursery out in Marlton."
Now, Heide had no idea about my tentative tree plan. None at all.
Do they have trees there?"
"Ummm.. yeah. It's a nursery! Can I pick something up for you?"
So, I told her the whole thing -- she agreed that this was a weird weird coincidence. I asked her to look for magnolias and cherry trees and to call me from the place.
For the record - no one has EVER randomly called me to ask if I want to go to or need anything from a plant nursery. This was just weird.
So, she calls me from the place and she says she has found a magnolia... but even better, she says, is a different ornamental tree she's found... she says it's called a "crepe myrtle," but she's never heard of it before.
"Oh my god. I know what those are," I say, "They have that two-toned bark, right? almost like camouflage or something."
"Well, this one doesn't, but it's young. Let me look at the tag...... Yes! 'Crepe Myrtles famous for their cinnamon colored and spotted bark and for large beautiful blooms in the summer.'"
"This is so weird, " i say.
Why is this weird?
Well, recall that trip to Charleston, SC that Mike and I took in early March of last year - The one that he refused to postpone? The one that basically delayed his radiation therapy? The one where I realized that he was so not right... getting lost, overdrawing our bank account, sleeping 16 hours a day?
There were a few beautiful moments during that trip. My favorite was a horse-drawn carriage ride we took through the historic district. And on that ride, Mike was struck by these trees - these intricate, sculpture-like trees with two-tones of bark.
He even asked the driver (we were in the front), "What are these trees? they are amazing."
"Those are crepe myrtles, my friend. Charleston is famous for them. As beautiful without the leaves as they are when they're in full bloom. They're like nature's artwork, aren't they?"
So... that's the tree that Heide found. She delivered it to my driveway - so I didn't have any hassle involved at all.
Yesterday morning, my friend Colin (longtime friend who just moved to Philly) dug the hole. CSM and Michelle kept the morning full of laughter and helped fill in the hole around the tree with me.
It was the first time since last fall that I had opened up the box of Mike's ashes. And I had never actually touched his ashes before. It felt so good to hold him in my hand. The ashes were so fine, like dust, but with chunks of his bones in them. I sobbed so hard, I couldn't breathe. Michelle wiped my face with her sweatshirt as I held Mike in my hand. I had a sudden urge to be in the bag of ashes - or to cover myself in them - or maybe even consume them somehow. It was a feeling of closeness to him that I wanted to make last forever.
But instead, I took a few handfuls and spread them around the base of the tree. We hadn't yet completely filled in the hole, so the ashes were about 4 inches down into the ground. Then we filled it in, mulched around it, and watered it.
I picked bax up from school and introduced him to Daddy's tree. He loves it. He knows it's special. He even kissed it.
Julie and Jack stopped by to check in. Carrie came over at dinner time with champagne and chinese food in hand. She took the lead on bax's bedtime routine because I was just so tired. She cleaned up the kitchen and we sat on the porch in our jackets because it was so chilly.
Quite a day. As odd as it seems, I consider myself to be so very lucky. I am taken care of by such wonderful people. I just hope that I can give back as much as has been given to me.