This I Believe

Heather - Conway, Arkansas
Entered on November 21, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30

I was a dreamy, romantic child, full of imagination and gentle compassion for the world. When I learned that my great grandfather was dying and that my mother was going to Okalahoma to say goodbye, I asked if I could go too. I was almost five years old and not too much of a troublemaker, so she said yes. To his dire disappointment and my growing sense of maturity, my younger brother who announced his desire “to see a dead man” had to stay at home with Dad.

The drive to Okalahoma seemed infinite. It was several hours and worlds away from my Arkansas country lane. I enjoyed writing and drawing so I spent the car time composing a book, dedicated appropriately to Daddy Arthur. It had pictures of my gardens and my family. Within the book’s pages the magic tendril of a dew-covered fern quivered and the breathable blue sky broke into innocent and childlike song. I finished my project before we got there.

When we arrived, everyone at the house was crying and hugging each other. I felt their sadness, but I didn’t really understand why. I discovered that when people are sad, it helps to have someone to cuddle; I gave lots of hugs.

I have this single memory of Daddy Arthur: pale, fragile, old. He couldn’t stand or walk. He could barely summon his voice to speak. Leaning up on the dying man’s bed I showed him my creation, page by page. It was an intimate moment, youth looking at age approaching death. When he reached out to hold my small white hand, we both trembled. He looked like he was trying to ask me something. I hesitated and look at my mom, who sat in a rocking chair behind me, watching. What did he need? I returned my gaze to his rainy ancient eyes. Then he whispered words, as though to my soul: plant flowers wherever you live, and wherever you go let something beautiful grow.

The essence of this idea filtered through my being and became intertwined into the fabric of my self. Metaphorically speaking Arthur’s words of wisdom are seeds of their own, blooming throughout the seasons of my existence. I am still the romantic and imaginative dreamer I was twenty years ago. However, I have grown into an avid gardener and an advocator for a sustainable and healthy environment.

To me everything is a garden, where things are composted and transformed into life, harboring infinite possibilities. Death is generosity; it is a necessary part of the process of renewal. Philosophically, I think that life is a great rebirth, and a constant reemergence from that which comes before. I believe that Arthur left me something holy to share; he gave me the seed of beauty.