Like many of you, I found myself outdoors yesterday relishing the mild temperatures and basking in the warm sunny rays that shone through the almost leafless trees. For a while I raked and marveled that just days ago these same leaves lay hidden under a thin blanket of snow. And to think, on this day, the mercury will likely hit 70 degrees! I was happy the leaves (if not the children) provided an opportunity to be outside.
Before the sun began its inevitable dip downward, I put the rake aside, and turned to the last bag of bulbs that needed planting. I am always late with the bulbs. My goal is to get them in the ground by Halloween, yet I’ve been known to be laying down crocus and tulip bulbs while the Thanksgiving turkey roasts in the oven.
As I began to dig holes in the rock-laden soil that I continually wrestle with, my mind drifted back to the November of three years ago, when I was planting bulbs on a chilly Monday morning. My cell phone rang; it was a friend calling with some terrible news.
“This is awful,” she said. “Have you heard the sad news? Nancy Landry died suddenly last night. It may have been a heart attack. They’re figuring out how to inform the community now.”
No, I had not heard the news. I thanked her for the call, threw down my shovel, and sat in the dirt stunned and saddened. Nancy Landry was not old and, as far as I knew, she was not sick.
Nancy Landry, you see, was a beloved Kindergarten aid at the Butler school. For countless children and parents, her presence at the Butler was inextricably linked with the Kindergarten experience. She helped zipper up jackets, read stories, and opened juice boxes – cheerfully and caringly – for hundreds of students over many years.
Nancy not only worked at the Butler, but she also lived in the Butler neighborhood. I’ll never forget the Halloween night when a bunch of kids rang her doorbell – not knowing it was her house. When she came to the door, dressed of course in a full costume – I believe it was Fancy Nancy that year – the children shrieked with joy.
“Look, it’s Mrs. Landry!”
She immediately invited her charges in, gave them water, showed them where the bathroom was, and sent them on their way with a handful of candy and a hug.
That’s how it always was with Nancy: she consistently gave more than she had to.
It’s not possible for me to plant bulbs in November without thinking about Nancy. This is true not only because I received the news of her death while I was in my garden, but also because I wrote this poem a few weeks after she died.
Gardens of Faith
Planting bulbs in the fall requires faith.
Faith that they’ll survive the frigid winter.
Faith that they’ll actually bloom in spring.
And faith that you’ll be around to enjoy the colorful blooms
Those sweet sprouts that herald the coming of a more gentle season.
Did Nancy find the time to plant bulbs this fall?
Will tulips, crocus, or daffodils bloom in her garden, come April?
Will they wonder where she is?
I wonder where she is now?
Nancy was a kind woman with a big smile and a generous heart. She touched the lives of many children; I still miss seeing her as I walk the Butler halls.
I expect I always will.