Ode to Phyllis: Happy are they who live and die enjoying what they love
And here the precious dust is layd;
Whose purely temper’d Clay was made
So fine, that it the guest betray’d.
Else the soule grew so fast within,
It broke the outward shell of sinne,
And so was hatch’d a Cherubin.
Many of you may know that I recently moved, but maybe not that I’m living in the same neighborhood or that I’ve been here for the last 12 years. I’d gotten to know a few of my neighbors who were more settled than the mostly transient population of our village. Of those I knew by name, I’ve admired Phyllis a great deal.
Phyllis had created a fairy kingdom of a home, a loving project that spanned a half century or so. Her cottage looks like something from the English countryside. She tended a rare and unique moss in her yard. Her graceful trees sheltered choruses of birds making nests and heralding the passing hours, night and day. Her roof was thatch shingled, and I often swore I’d just seen what had to have been elves or pixies peeking about the rocks or bushes.
And so over the years Phyllis and I would exchange greetings, passing each other coming and going on our morning walks — she always walking more briskly, though I am not known to stroll. Or I’d stop to say hello and admire her handiwork while she gardened, which was almost all the time.
One day, instead of Phyllis, I saw a stranger watering the lawn. I stopped to inquire about my neighbor, for never have I seen another tending her lawn. I learned that it was a friend; it was she who had worried when her ring went unanswered, and it was her lot to find Phyllis out back where she’d been tending her secret garden. Phyllis was 90.
Her passing naturally affects me. It makes me wonder too. How many of us choose to really live, each active and happy in our own garden of life? How many times have we passed on the joys of the moment, choosing instead to put them off for a more ‘appropriate’ time?
I was privileged to have known Phyllis, who always inspired me. Not with her words. She wasn’t much for conversation. But she taught through the magic she created in our neighborhood. And she always struck me, not as someone who lived to die. No, her legacy was loving life enough to have died, truly living.
Meaning of life