Late August, early September my beloved Dad spent two weeks with us in Cape Town. He took a much needed break from his life in the USA to spend time with us knowing he was going home to have an operation soon after. He timed his trip to coincide with my birthday and wanted to buy me something special …

Japanese flowering crabapple

During his stay we seemed to spend a lot of time talking about death and dying. Did he know? I think he had an inkling. He certainly seemed to be facing the possibility – having major surgery at any age poses a risk. At age 79 it surely is a far greater risk. The discussions about dying were light, mostly talk about us fetching his beloved companion and pet, Sherrie*, a promise my daughter made to him when he rescued Sherrie from a puppy mill two years ago. We talked about “where do we go from here” a bit. It was always light. I told my Dad that I would always look for him in the garden and if it is possible to connect with life on earth, to “meet me there”. We agreed on that …

All talk about the pending operation (a spinal fusion) and my fears for his well being were poo-poohed with a German expression which was supposed to reassure me that he would be just fine … “Unkraut vergeht nicht” he kept reminding me (directly translated for my non-German friends, it means “Weeds don’t die”). In my anger at his passing shortly after the operation all I could do was shout at the heavens and tell him … “You see, you weren’t a weed!”. All pleading for him not to have the operation were ignored. My Father insisted that it was vital to his well being that he have the operation. The alternative would have been certain confinement to a wheel chair in a very short space of time, an option he was not prepared to entertain.

How do we move on from losing a beloved Father? I don’t know yet. I always knew the day would come that I would have to face the world without his presence in my life, always steady, always there for me. My beloved Father was a huge influence on me and my life in almost every way. The last ten years we had a bond that was deep and extremely rewarding and I miss him every day in a way I never imagined it possible to miss someone. Does it get easier as time goes on?

So what was the “special” birthday gift my Dad bought me? Lots of Irises and two Japanese flowering Crabapples (Malus floribunda). They were two twigs when we bought them in September and when I left for the USA two weeks ago they showed no sign of life. But I’ve come home to the two crabapples covered in blossoms. My Dad loved these trees, said they were his favourite. There were two Japanese paintings in his home of flowering crabapples. I can’t think of a more appropriate gift from my Dad at this time than these two trees planted in my garden. A place where I can visit and feel close to him. I think he is smiling at “his” trees now covered in blossoms … and me? Well I’m having difficulty looking at them right now. But I see the blossoms out of the corner of my eye and I know they will give me much pleasure one day in the future.

*Sherrie, a sweet Cairn Terrier, is on her way “home” to us. She will embark on her long journey from the USA to Cape Town to her “forever” home next week. I look forward to introducing you all to what I hope will be an enthusiastic new little garden companion. I spent the last ten days with her in the USA and we’ve already bonded with her – she is a charming, sweet little dog but as my Dad always told me, she’s quite cheeky and VERY stubborn! I’m thinking that “stubborn” should fit in well here.

Note: The photograph is a stock image from Shutterstock – I can’t find it in myself to take photographs of anything right now …