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.