Right outside our front door a beautiful, vibrant shrub has begun it’s summer bloom. The flowers start out a deep purple, fade to lavender, and then turn white just before they die away. It’s called “Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow”. Don was the gardener at our house, and he planted three of these shrubs about ten years ago. He loved it when they would bloom, a sign that summer was just around the corner.
I walk past these plants every day, but have never really thought much about the name. Now it seems ironic, almost mocking, that there’s a reminder just outside my door – I don’t get to have tomorrow with Don. We got to have yesterday, and up until six months ago, we got to have today. But we don’t have tomorrow.
Yesterday, in some respects, is a blink. We would have celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary this Tuesday. Thirty years ago we said our vows in Alexandria, Virginia – for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health – we’ve seen them all. How is it possible that three decades have passed? We generally marked our anniversary rather simply – we might go out to dinner or to a movie. We’ve actually spent many anniversaries at Dodger games. For the big ones we splurged and did something fun – on our 20th we went to Bora Bora, and for our 25th, we celebrated in Napa. We dreamed of going to Italy for our 30th. But no matter how we celebrated, we always recognized the significance of each passing year together. For months now I’ve been stumped with how I want to spend this special evening. After all, an anniversary is usually shared by the couple, not necessarily with kids or friends. How do I even begin to signify the importance of this day? It’s not a celebration, because the man I love isn’t here to share it with me. It slowly dawned on me that on Tuesday, I’d like to go to our local steakhouse, a favorite of Don’s. Dave and Kathy, and maybe our kids, will join me. I feel the need to mark it somehow. Thirty years is significant, and I’d like to have steak, baked potatoes, and gin and tonics all around. Don would like that. And of course coconut cream pie…
Today, actually, is teeming with life. Andrew and his girlfriend Scarlett decided a few months ago to move from New York to Los Angeles. They are busy and working and adjusting to life on this coast. (I’m sensing a mini-migration to California of some of their friends from college as well, which makes them happy.) Molly has been climbing the ladder at the clothing store where she works and is so good at what she does. I wouldn’t be surprised if some day she makes the move to New York. She is delightful to have around, and is always introducing us to some new crazy-healthy food or juice. At her Emerson College graduation ceremony, Carrie was very thoughtful about how she wanted to honor her dad, and make sure he was included in her day. She wore navy blue Van’s tennis shoes, a Don Rhymer fashion staple. She painted her fingernails Dodger blue. And she and a few of her friends decorated their caps with “Focus on the Good”. I burst into tears when I saw what they had done. She’ll be home in a week or so, and I’m excited to see what the world holds for her.
The only way I could be more grateful for all of this life is if Don were here to share it with us.
Which brings me to tomorrow. I now have an understanding of the saying “one day at a time” like never before. If I let my brain go too far into the future, I can’t even begin to fathom it. It’s been six months. I can’t imagine one year, or six years, or twenty years. That just doesn’t compute. I feel like my answer to almost every question these days is “I don’t know”. I don’t know what to do for vacation. I don’t know when to clean out his closet. Some days, I don’t know how to get up in the morning. But I have a friend who tells me, “You know what you need to know”. Vague, yes. But oddly comforting as well. I know what I need to know. That’s actually all any of us have. I don’t need to know anything else. Tomorrow will take care of itself.
Don, at his core, was an uncomplicated man. He loved his friends, he loved his kids, and he loved me. And I know he wouldn’t want us to worry about tomorrow. So I will try, every time I see the shrub outside my door, to remember that yesterday, life was vibrant. Today, life is vibrant. And tomorrow – with God’s grace – life will somehow be vibrant as well.