St. Francis of Assisi was hoeing his garden when someone asked what he would do if he were suddenly to learn that he would die before sunset that very day. “I would finish hoeing my garden,” he replied.
Mr. and Mrs. Hudson (Roosevelt and Lee) were among the first people we met some 15 years ago when we moved to Dover. An elderly African-American couple, they were great neighbors from the first time we met them.
At the time, I had not yet retired, so our time spent in Dover was minimal: weekends, the occasional vacation, etc. Because of the limited amount of time in our intended retirement home, I was unable to do the required lawn work. So, Mr. Hudson graciously mowed our grass when I couldn’t. He also made sure that our trash and recycling bins were set out during the week.
I was to learn that mowing the lawn was not a chore for Mr. Hudson. Once we moved to Dover permanently we saw that he mowed his own lawn frequently. He mowed it short, walking behind his gas-powered push mower. Being older, he didn’t move all that fast, but he got the job done. I once asked him why he mowed so often. He explained that he didn’t like the little white flowers that appeared when the clover was in bloom. As soon as he saw clover blossoms, he was out cutting their little heads off.
After we had taken up residence permanently, I took over my own lawn care, and Mr. Hudson continued with his. He would mow for a while, then sit in a chair in the shade of a small tree or his house to rest up. Yard work continues to give him a modicum of exercise and fresh air, and he’s happy with the look of his crew-cut grass.
Mrs. Hudson passed away last week. She would have been 90 on her next birthday — Lincoln’s birthday, Feb. 12 — and she was proud not only of how old she would have been, but of the fact that she had the good fortune to be born on the same day as the Emancipator. Her service was held last Saturday, Sept. 12. Evelyn and I attended the visitation portion of the afternoon. Mr. Hudson appeared befuddled. He and Mrs. Hudson had been married for 71 years. He said to me, “I’m just confused.”
The day after Mrs. Hudson died I happened to look across the street to see Mr. Hudson mowing his grass. The scene was reminiscent of the St. Francis quote above. If it were reworked a bit, it might come out something like this:
“Mr. Hudson was mowing his grass when someone asked him what he would do if he learned that his wife would die before sunset that very day. ‘I would finish my mowing my grass,’ he said.”