Bill was using his backpack, stuffed with spare clothing, for a pillow. It turned cold that night. During the wee hours, he put on the extra clothes. When he awoke, his head was resting on a pack that now contained only one item.
The small cardboard box filled with Mary’s ashes.
“There she was, comforting me,” he said. “One more night.”
Everyone I know, loves Sam Venable’s column and I’m no exception. It is just the kind of piece that you can rely on to be a funny, wise, witty, or poignant, and sometimes all of the above; I just like it. That being said, I don’t always READ Sam’s column. Most people think that since I work for the paper, I read every word of it, every day, and while it would be wonderful if I could say I do, I can’t. I read it often but sometimes, after a busy day, the last thing a newspaper employee wants to do, is look at a newspaper!
On Saturday night, a friend of ours, my husband and I went to the Time Warp Tea Room to see a great folk/blues/country musician, Malcolm Holcombe. After the set, I heard the guy who had been sitting across from me, talking about music and musicians to another patron. My husband was outside, so we struck up a conversation. As it turned out he was quite a music aficionado and had similar taste in music as my husband and me. He told me that he had lost his wife to leukemia and that music had been such an important part of their lives and a comfort during her sickness and eventual death. It was a very moving conversation, especially one to have with a stranger.
We exchanged cards when he noticed that I worked for the same paper as Sam Venable. “He actually wrote a column about me and my wife.” That’s when I remembered reading it. It was such a beautifully written commentary on a beautiful love and a final, beautiful tribute, there was no way I would have forgotten it. Being a newlywed, I remembered thinking about our love and what would happen if we had to go through something like that. It just touched me deeply. I certainly can’t do it justice quoting it, so go read it. Here, I’ll link it again.
As we talked, he mentioned he makes primitive baskets from bark. During Malcolm’s set, at times I couldn’t see and behind him hung one of Bill’s baskets; I had been staring at it for a couple of hours wondering what it was, just letting my mind wander while I consumed the music. When I said I was a newlywed, he said he had noticed we were holding hands and that he too had been thinking about us, wondering.
We talked of how life paths cross and you meet people, and read things, you sometimes read things about people you never thought you’d meet! And that if you open your eyes, there’s a lot of really beautiful things around us. With a tear in my eye, I hugged him as we left and said we’d certainly meet again. I’m glad I eavesdropped on his conversation about music and chimed in, and I think he is too.
I often think about how random life is, and that maybe, just maybe, it isn’t so random. What made me read that particular article? Why was I staring at that basket? Why did he notice us when there were plenty of other couples in the place. What made me just start talking to him? I don’t know the answers. When I got home, I pulled out my computer and looked up Sam’s article. Bill’s wife passed away on May 23rd, the day that my husband and I got married, and the “hill with a pretty view” he chose to scatter her ashes? Overlooking the very spot we exchanged our vows.