Friday, October 17, 2014

The Last Leaf

A calendar holder painted with blackboard paint became a welcome sign!
I have been telling my readers about cleaning our house and garage in preparation for having company from out of town. Steve and I barely knew each other in high school. He dated a friend of mine and we double dated. Steve and I became e-mail friends only a few years ago through this same mutual high school friend.

Steve was married and his wife suffered from Chronic Fatigue/ Fibromyalgia an illness that shares many of the same symptoms of Chronic Lyme. Steve wrote to me about the story, The Spoon Theory, which is a classic must-read for anyone with an invisible illness (just google it on line if you wish to read it). Shortly after that his wife was diagnosed with Late Stage 4 Lung Cancer, though she had never been a smoker. I continued to correspond with Steve to give him support through her dying days and after.

The strength of his character came shining through as he took each step in he and his wife's challenging journey. He is truly a remarkable person and a good friend.  This year he planned a trip to the East to see our beautiful fall colors and took the time to come and and visit me and my family. His visit became the catalyst and motivation behind what I named The Steve N Garage and House Clean-up Project of 2014. Pictures of my nearly cleaned garage were featured in my last blog as were the before pictures a couple of months earlier.

His visit was really the excuse we needed to do what had become overwhelming projects put off for too long. He came Columbus Day Weekend and so the day before his visit became the deadline to complete these projects!

In Vermont, Columbus Day Weekend is typically peak leaf peeping season, though this year I worried that our fall was coming too early and I wrote to Steve about my concerns of whether or not there would still be leaves on the trees for him to see. Typical of Steve, he simply calmly wrote back insisting that I read, The Last Leaf  by O'Henry. For those who haven't read this story, it is truly a beautiful story of the power of hope and sacrificial love and all centered around a last leaf of the season. This story can be found on line too and is a lovely read!
Our maple tree in the front yard with lots of leaves left yet!

Steve's dry humor is great and he joked about deserving compensation for being the motivation behind our big clean-up project. While doing inventory of my crafts, I stumbled upon a tiny penny rug with a single fall maple leaf, surrounded by fall colored tabs, it was clear that this would be the perfect gift to commemorate his visit and what it had come to represent to us. It would also satisfied my concern that he get to see a fall leaf if none were left on the trees for his visit.
As it turned out, the fall colors were glorious for the weekend!

I attached a note to his gift, thanking him for the hope that he gave us all. Like the artist in the story, I didn't think this little penny rug was my masterpiece in terms of my artwork, but I did want to thank him for his friendship and encouragement, as well as him taking time to visit me in the middle of his touring New England. His friendship and visit are truly special gifts deserving of my token gift in return!! How appropriate that the last leaf in the story represented hope as his visit came to represent hope to me and my family to put our lives back together after a rough couple of years that taxed us greatly!

My husband's hope is that our difficult stretch of time is over and that this clean-up project will end with our cars tucked safely in the garage for winter. My oldest daughter's hope came to be represented in finally getting her belongings that were rescued almost three years ago from sheds that had collapsed under the weight of a severe snow storm, properly re-stored in plastic containers and returned to the sheds that had been made winter-ready again. And my hope was for a solid beginning of a “make-over” of myself, though my goal changed when I couldn’t yet physically tolerate swimming. I instead I cleaned some windows and curtains and added some decorations to my house, as it represents an extension of myself and my hope of what is yet to come regarding the return of my health after a very long treatment process!!
Some additional humorous deco signs added to our family picture wall!

Lisa Zador's animal portraits extended our family pics and made me laugh!

More deco signs remind me.that I love to sew and God sees my stitches!!

Oh dear!! If I am not positive, punishment  will follow!!

A deco ironing board cover made to match my room!!

An old sampler gets a $2 frame and hung up! (Not perfect, I know, but done!)

My penny rug framed was a fitting compensation for Steve for I came to see it as the very symbol of the tangible hope represented in The Last Leaf.  There was a reason that this one had not sold for it was meant for Steve! His friendship and encouragement has indeed been a remarkable gift!

My Last Leaf Penny Rug

Steve's recommendation of many terrific books have encouraged me in my journey through difficult days with a chronic illness! Should we all have such a friend during such times!  I am glad to report that Steve has continued on with his own life journey following his wife's untimely death.  He brought his girlfriend, Anne with him when he came to visit me. They share the bond of having both lost their spouses to cancer. Their courage and strength is an inspiration and hope that keeps on giving and reminds me that we all need to be a source of hope and encouragement to others!  Thanks Steve!