A week ago Pam and I went out into the church grounds and clipped tall branches of brilliant yellow forsythia. We were hosting a dinner at the rectory, and we wanted to brighten the house with flowers—without spending all that money.
There’s a bank of forsythia running fifty feet along the church driveway, a riot of yellow!
As I clipped what seemed like long golden feathers, I remembered a dying woman I visited many years ago. It was April. As I walked into her home I was taken by a giant spray of forsythia in a tall vase that sat on the floor of the entryway. I paused to take in the sight. “I brought them in this morning,” she said. “This is my last spring, and I want to enjoy them totally.”
Not many weeks later, at her funeral, I told a story I’d heard about the philosopher and literary critic George Santayana. Santayana came into an inheritance that allowed him to relinquish his university faculty appointment and pursue other interests.
The day he gave his final lecture the hall was packed. His address was said to be stunning—brilliant, until the moment he abruptly stopped speaking. Then he walked away.
The audience was bewildered. What would cause the great philosopher to walk out on his own valedictory speech.
Later, Santayana explained that he had glanced out the window and seen a forsythia branch just popping out from bud to bloom. The crowd in the lecture hall knew only that he had suddenly gathered up his papers, looked at them and said, “I shall not be able to finish my sentence. I have just discovered that I have an appointment with April.”
Both Santayana and my dying friend had presence of mind to stop everything and love what was before them. In the words of the Broadway musical, “Now.Here.This.”
This is the essence of living, the mark of joy, and yet it is the hardest thing to do.
Where I live the forsythia is still in bloom; where you live something is breaking into flower. We have an appointment with April.
Consider this my “like” button. We all should have one. My appointment is at the launch. Amen brother.
Beautiful, David. “My last April” got my attention. Some, like this woman, know it. Many do not. This may be my last May. I don’t want to wait until a death sentence wakes me up.
The sunset yesterday was beyond sensational.
Sandy Oldfield says
David, this is beautifully conceived and written and will be something I keep in my proverbial pocket and try to remember. I have always likened your sermons and essays to a pebble or shell or pinecone I picked up on a walk and put in my jacket pocket, only to rediscover at a later date, and recall the pleasure or meaning of that previous time — a touchstone, if you will. THis is surely one of them! My moher had a long hedge of forsythia along the driveway and I remember the joy of walking home from the bus stop each spring. It still reminds me of her but there is very little of it out this way so memory will have to suffice.
David Anderson says
Thanks, Sandy–that’s a lovely memory…of your mother’s long hedge of forsythia. I find that memories like that can come alive almost more powerfully than a present experience, because it’s so weighted with years and years of association and memory.
Mark Mosier says
I have often repeated,”Every room should have a touch of yellow.” Perhaps that should be “Every view should have a touch of yellow,” but wait–that’s why we love Seasons so much.
Dave Benner says
Dear David – Really enjoyed the forsythia article. I had two tours of my garden today and forsythia here is still blooming, but everything in my garden is starting to bloom now and my life is here and now and sharing the present flowers with others has such meaning and a reflection of God’s love in the beautiful world we live in. Peace and love to you and your wonderful family.
David Anderson says
Miss your spring garden, Dave!