There would be times I'd think of her but would rarely mention it to my husband, afraid the sadness would cloud a rare good day he might be having.
Over time, we came to speak of Mamaw June again, especially around the holidays and whenever the topic of fried chicken would come up.
My goodness, that woman could cook. And fried chicken with dumplings was her speciality.
Yesterday a reminder popped on my phone of a memory from exactly six years ago. On that day she came over and taught me her secret. We had such a great time that evening in my kitchen. Watching her frail hands, I imagined how many batches she'd cooked over the years.
Seeing the love pour out of her with each motion, I realized, there truly wasn't a secret to it. No exotic ingredient she used, just her special touch.
Because of that reminder, she was on my mind throughout the day. I would've never guessed that by the afternoon I'd end up in the apartment complex where she used to live. Pulling into the parking lot and walking to the breezeway just next to hers, passing her favorite bench, I was flooded with pictures from the past.
One of the sweetest transitions from grief and loss is when a memory brings
a smile instead of a tear.
What happened next though gave me me goosebumps.
Talking with the kind lady I was meeting about her flower beds, she mentioned a rose garden in the back of the complex. She had recently moved there and was happy to have a place to tinker in the yard. The manager had mentioned to her there was an overgrown rose garden at the back nobody had taken care of for several years. So she gladly did. This season was spent digging out the weeds and leaves and pruning all the plants. Next year she hopes the blooms will return.
That rose garden was June's.
Aside from being a great cook, June had a green thumb like no other. She could take a stick, plant it in the ground and something beautiful would grow. Her favorite flower was the rose so every holiday imaginable, at least one of her boys would buy her a plant. And thus, the rose garden began.
It was planted on a hill alongside the "chocolate river," as her grandbabies called it. We spent many an afternoon swinging or picnicking in her favorite space.
I shared some of those memories with this new friend and her eyes sparkled, as mine became misty. Upon leaving her house, I opted for the back route, which led me around to the garden mentioned.
June would've been so pleased with the progress.
A lot has changed in the past five years. Time passes on. Yet I was grateful for the walk down memory lane and the fragrant scent of roses, if only in my mind.