Thursday, May 7, 2009

Helen's Flower


Last summer, as I was working in the garden, I decided to thin out the Heleniums, commonly known as Helen's Flower. When I bought them the year before from Michigan Bulb, they were nice-sized plants in their little pots, but I had no idea how very large they would get!

As I dug and divided, I thought to myself how cool it would be to give some to my next-door-neighbor. Neither she nor her husband do gardening as any kind of hobby and aren't even remotely obsessed with it like I am, but they do plant the flower beds around their house and a few veggies in a small plot out back. I knew they'd find a spot for this one.

My neighbor's name is Helen.


When you live next to a gardening nut like me, you have to listen to me blather on about such intricacies about flowers like how you shouldn't plant two types of basil next to each other because they'll cross-pollinate. But I listen sometimes, too. I know neither one of them wanted to grow anything that didn't pretty much take care of itself. So not only did I find it amusing that I was giving Helen's Flower to Helen, I knew both she and Tom would embrace its minimal care requirements.


Helen, at times, worked three jobs. Goodness, that woman worked hard and you rarely saw her sitting still. One of her jobs for awhile was working at Dairy Queen and sometimes she would bring a cup or two of ice cream over to share with us. Chocolate for me, vanilla for Romie, because she knew what we liked. And her cookies! She knew I rarely baked cookies but I love to eat them, so when she was baking some for her kids and grandkids, she shared with us.


I'm having trouble writing this and getting my verb tenses to agree. You see, Helen lost her fight with cancer last night. It hasn't yet sunk in that I won't see her smiling face ever again. No more walks down the road, sharing life stories and solving the world's problems as we walked. No more sitting with her under the stars around the fire in the back yard, wondering if that bright star in the southern sky is really Jupiter. Life here in this little corner of northwest Ohio just made a major shift.


On Saturday, Romie and I worked in their front flower beds, cleaning out the weeds that had popped up in recent weeks. It seemed like such an irrelevant task, but it was something we could do and they couldn't, just now. No doubt it was something that didn't matter to them, in light of what was happening inside the house, but selfishly, it made
us feel better to be able to do something.

As I crawled around the corner of the house on my hands and knees, I saw three small plants growing by the front door. It took me a second, but when I realized what they were, I sat back and said to Romie, "Oh my gosh. Look at that."


Last year, Helen and I were talking about the orange poppies that always grew and bloomed along the ditch bank at the end of our road, and how we both wanted to go dig some up to plant at our own houses. I'd dug some when we first moved here nearly 32 years ago, but not a single one survived. Poppies don't like to be moved. But we decided to try again.

Romie and I dug a few clumps, noticing that someone else had done the same thing before we got there. We brought them home, planted some, and gave the rest to Helen. She planted them right by her front door, in what looked like some of the worst soil that Paulding County has to offer.


Spring is now here, and not a single one of the poppies I planted has come up. Helen's poppies, however, are growing and no doubt will bloom. I just love this, but I would love it more if she'd be here to see them when they burst forth with their orangey goodness.


Helen shared some of her irises with me last year, too. At the time, I couldn't know that when they bloom in my garden this summer, I won't be able to run over to get her so she can come look. But I will offer up a prayer of thanks for her life and that I had the privilege of being her neighbor and her friend. I know she'll hear me. I believe she'll smile as she looks down upon not only the irises, but those orange poppies, blooming by her front step.

I will look at them too, and smile back. Helen, you live on in our hearts and in the flowers.


___________________
Iris photo by Debbie G.
Poppies photo by Richard North of Due North Photography


24 comments:

Colleen said...

Oh, Kylee. I am so sorry. This was a beautiful tribute to Helen.

KT said...

Love your story.....you have such a gift of sharing your life by putting it into words. You were lucky to have Helen as a neighbor. Sounds like you have lots of reminders!

MyMaracas said...

You have me in tears now. I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend. My mother died about this time last year, and the irises she loved so much and shared with me will be blooming soon. I always think of her and my granny when I see certain flowers. Gardening has a way of growing connections between us that last beyond our own time.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

What a sweet tribute to your friend and neighbor Helen. I am so sorry to hear of your loss. No doubet the neighborhood won't be the same.

Connie said...

This was a beautiful post, Kylee, in honor of your friend. I am sorry you have lost a friend, but happy that the orange poppies will be a memorial for her.

Gail said...

I am sorry you lost your friend and neighbor...what a joy it was to have a friend with whom you could ponder the universe and run to share your excitement...Her poppies are lovely.

jennahsgarden said...

I fell in love with heleniums over the winter in catalogs and now have a bunch - I'll think of your friend and this lovely story when they bloom.

Robin's Nesting Place said...

I'm so sorry that your neighbor lost her battle with cancer. A good neighbor is so hard to come by, what a blessing that you and Helen had each other for neighbors.

Muum said...

so sorry that you've lost such a wonderful neighbor. Thanks for sharing your sweet association with her, she sounds like a gem.

Sylvana said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your friend. My husband's mother, an avid gardener, just died from an antibiotic-resistant infection. We visited her garden after the service and I nearly started crying all over again when I saw her unfinished greenhouse. But it was very comforting to hear her husband talking about his plans for taking over her gardens. It made me feel like he would make sure she lived on in her garden.

Blackswamp_Girl said...

Sending hugs: (((Kylee)))

What a beautiful tribute to Helen this was. I'm sure that you'll be enjoying those orange poppies in her garden for years to come.

Karen said...

What a beautiful tribute to your friend. I'm so sorry for your loss of what you have described as a wonderful person.

Rosehaven Cottage said...

What a beautiful tribute to an obviously wonderful neighbor and friend. I am certain that she knows what you wrote and is smiling at your right now for all the gifts of flowers you have shared with her. I am certain.

Hugs and love,
Cindy

Annie in Austin said...

Your sweet and sad post is a lovely tribute to your neighbor and the friendship between you, Kylee. I'm so sorry you lost her but so glad you shared each other's lives.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Brenda Kula said...

I'm so very sorry. It lifts our hearts to find the unexpected flowers growing, only to have it fall when we remember she won't see it. Not from here anyway. It will take a long time for your heart to heal, dear one. Plant her a little spot in the garden and tend it as you would her. It will give you peace and some place for the love in your heart to go. Dig in the dirt, sweet girl. You know it is the only medicine for grief.
Brenda

Kris said...

A wonderfully heartfelt post, Kylee. You have my deepest sympathy at the loss of your friend....

Patsi 'Garden Endeavors' said...

Lovely sad story.
Sorry for your loss.

Msrobin said...

I'm so sorry to hear that Helen lost her battle with cancer. But how nice that you have her iris's to remember her by.

Christy said...

Thank you for sharing. I'm sure Helen will be missed.

Kylee said...

Thank you, EACH and EVERY ONE of you, that took the time to read this small tribute to Helen and express your thoughts and sympathies. Many of you have experienced this before, but I had not - not quite in this way.

Yesterday, we had a celebration of her life, and while we said our formal goodbyes, she will always be in our lives through our memories, and through those who knew her best - her family.

Thank you, again.

jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

Kylee, we knew this was coming (because you shared with me a little) but this still made me weep. What a lovely tribute. I never met Helen, but I'll think of her when my Helenium come through this fall.

Mothballs said...

Lovely tribute Kylee.My Mum loved sunflowers and when I was travelling in Italy and gazing on endless fields of sunflowers all I could think about was how much my Mother would have loved seeing this.

Dee @ Red Dirt Ramblings said...

Honey, I'm so sorry you lost your friend and neighbor Helen. It's difficult to lose our loved ones, but I'm grateful for the flowers (and ice cream) they shared with me. Tender smiles, waves across the way, these are important milestones in our lives although we may not know it at the time. A hug for you.~~Dee

Conor said...

This is so moving, I am in tears, yet smiling. Thank you for sharing.

Conor @ MinifarmBox.com

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