Beside Mabel

Yesterday my friend, Platt, stopped by. He does this more frequently now, since his wife, Mabel, died in May and was buried in the cemetery across the street.

Some days Platt drives through the cemetery to her grave in his old blue Jeep; other days in his sporty red car. It's funny that he drives that sporty little red car because he's about 80-something years old. It suits him, though. It does.

Mabel's is my favorite grave over there, across the street. Because there is a birdhouse beside it. And four pots filled with flowers. Which is one of the reasons Platt visits on a regular basis — to water the flowers. He waters other flowers at other graves, too. I have seen him do this: draw water from the faucet at the building in the cemetery and then walk, slowly, to other graves with his watering can.

When Mabel died she and Platt had been married for 63 years. 

It's very hard for me to imagine what that feels like, to lose someone you have lived with and made a family with and loved, for longer than I have been alive. For most of a life. To have them there with you, sitting in a chair by the kitchen, and then to place the ashes of their physical remains in the earth. To talk to them and not hear their voice, to not be able to see them or touch them anymore. To only be able to remember things about them.

Sometimes when Platt is visiting Mabel he stops here to chat with me. Sometimes he brings me things. Yesterday he brought me an old check.

Platt had found the check with the money from the collection plate at church a few Sundays ago. Platt is the person who takes the money from the collection each Sunday and puts it in the bank. 

The check had been written by me, to my friend Patty, for sixty-two dollars. The reason I wrote a check to Patty for sixty-two dollars was that we had gone to see a play together and she had bought the tickets for us ahead of time, and so I paid her back with a check.

Then she put the check in the collection plate, presumably her way of giving the money to the church instead of keeping it for herself. Platt was confused about that, so he came for a visit.

We chatted about Patty, who is in Singapore now, and about his kids and his life, without Mabel. Platt is an easy person to chat with because he is a good listener, he's never in a hurry and he's very kind-hearted. I think there have been about seven generations of his family here in this town. He knows a lot about this place. 

Platt left the check with me and went on his way and about fifteen minutes later he was back again, knocking on the door. He wanted to tell me that there were bluebirds nesting in the box beside Mabel's grave. He was clearly delighted about this and told me how unusual it was, to have bluebirds. He told me about their eggs, and about how he had seen two bluebirds flying nearby. And he told me that Mabel had loved looking at the birds outside the windows in their home on Herrick Brook Road. "She always loved the birds,"he said, sharing with me a sweet and simple memory of his bride of 63 years.

That's all. I just wanted you to know that this morning. About Platt and his charming, heartbreaking visits and Patty and her stealth generosity and the bluebirds. I wanted you to know about the bluebirds, nesting across the street, beside Mabel.

Amen.