Friday, January 18, 2008
Mrs. L - the gift of a neighbor
Sometimes the gifts you receive from your home have nothing to do with its square footage or it's well planned layout. The gift comes from who occupies the house next to you. We were fortunate to have the honor of being next door neighbors to Mr. & Mrs. L.
Yesterday, Mrs. L was laid to rest at Arlington Cemetary with full military honors, having received the Legion of Merit for her service to her country in the Pacific during World War II. Mrs. L was an accomplished woman with a humble nature. She was a debutante and had been the president of her college class. The wife of a two star Army General, she chose to spend her Friday evenings comforting wounded soldiers coming home from Vietnam. She was quick witted, funny and a great conversationalist. She was chic and warm, frugal and generous. Old panty hose became ties for her peonies and daffodils and tulips became a surprise bouquet at your door. I gratefully accepted her gift of 25 year old rose plant food she didn't want to go to waste as much as the emerald green Jackie O coat with the fox collar hand-tailored in Italy. But the gift of Mrs. L was so much more than these things. She shared her tremendous knowledge of gardening, teaching me how to divide and transplant. She introduced me to the concept of the "volunteer" plant, praising me when a dogwood and oak sapling announced their appearance in my yard one spring. She gave sound and welcomed parenting advice, having raised 4 children while living all over the world. She shared stories and experiences from her life that enriched my understanding of service, sacrifice and gratitude. Known for her interest in lifelong learning, Mrs. L was a lifelong teacher of what really matters when it is all said and done. She was simply the best.
A few years ago, Mr. and Mrs. L moved to a retirement community. The last time I saw her was at the memorial service of another neighbor. Our post-World War II neighborhood has begun to change as those of us of a younger generation take over the temporary stewardship of these plots of land. This April and for every spring we remain in this home, I will be reminded of Mrs. L when the daffodils, liriope, hostas, and countless other plants she shared with me bloom into being. And I will pause to reflect on my dear neighbor and I will be grateful to have known her. Thank you Mrs. L. Thank you.