When the last cherry blossom falls, so will my axe. Sharron and John planted this tree 22 years ago when they moved into the little three bedroom house on Cherry Court together. Newlyweds at the time they thought it would be a great starter home, but with only having one son, they never really needed more.
When Sharron was diagnosed last spring she would sit under this tree and read the literature the doctors sent her home with. Her tears fell to the ground eventually being soaked up by the roots. The tumor just a little white speck on the CAT scan, but out of reach for even the most skilled surgeon, would eventually be what ended their marriage; 25 years together, 23 married
As Sharron started to accept her fate over the summer months, she took control of tying up the loose ends. Making sure the house was now only in John’s name, avoiding the estate taxes if her name was still on the title at her death. Sorting out all of her jewelry that she knew her daughter in law would want. She spent many nights going through old photo albums. As the months passed she got around to all sorts of little projects. After the first MRI the doctors wanted to get follow ups every other month to track the growth of the tumor. That kind of schedule doesn’t let you escape reality very easily.
One night lying in bed together John asked her if she had any kind of bucket list, a trip she would like to take or even a perfect date night he could plan for her. Her response made him cry.
“John, you have given me a life full of perfect date nights and every trip we have gotten to take has been wonderful. My bucket is full.”
That was a turning point for John, finally accepting what was happening. All he wanted was to make Sharron happy. Knowing that he had was a weight lifted. Not that it made any of this OK but he was willing to accept it now.
In September Sharron started having trouble with coordination and with her speech. She would lose her balance from time to time as well. One Sunday when Rick and Olivia were over for dinner she stumbled and splashed pasta sauce on Olivia’s dress. Embarrassed she pulled John into the kitchen and broke down crying, knowing it couldn’t wait any longer. Olivia had walked in to get a wet rag to clean up the sauce and saw them.
“It’s ok Sharron; it’s just a little sauce. If it doesn’t come out it will be my new gardening dress.”
Sharron tried to hold back her tears which just made them come harder and faster. John helped her back into the Dining Room after she regained her composure. They all sat around the old wooden table and Rick started.
“What’s going on mom?”
“Your mother is not crying because of the pasta sauce Rick, She… We have something to talk to you about.”
“What’s wrong?” Ricks face going pale in anticipation of bad news.
“In April I had an incident. I was pulling weeds in the flowerbed out back and the left side of my body went numb. I fell to the ground and laid there for about 30 minutes before I started to get feeling back. I thought I had a stroke so we went to the emergency room. After running a lot of tests they found a white spot on the CAT scan. Two days later I got my first MRI. The white spot turns out to be between the Cerebellum and the brain stem. “ At this Rick grips Olivia’s hand and loses all color in his face.
“What your Mom is getting at here Rick is that she has a tumor in her brain in a spot that the surgeons cannot reach without causing more damage than the tumor is causing. As it grows it is putting pressure against her brain stem and is causing her to have coordination and speech issues. We wanted to hold off telling you for as long as possible.”
“Is there anything that can be done?” Rick gets up and walks around the table to hug his mom. He falls to his knees next to her chair and hugs her tight. “I love you so much mom. I wish there was something I could do.”
“I know son, I would give anything to be here next year having dinner with you.”
That is when the tears really started flowing. Hearing it in those terms, she won’t be hear a year from now.
It was actually about a month later. October 25th Sharron Elisabeth Donnelly fell down in the kitchen after making a cup of tea. She laid there motionless for 5 minutes staring at the ceiling before she died. In those 5 minutes her mind wandered from her childhood, riding her bike along the lakefront in downtown Chicago. Meeting John in college, seeing him at the party her friend was throwing for Halloween. The day he proposed while they were on vacation in Florida. Buying their house and planting the tree out front because the lawn seemed so barren without one. Giving birth to Rick and seeing him grow up and find a wife of his own.
After the funeral John went home and noticed that the leaves on part of the Yoshino Cherry tree were turning brown instead of red. The next spring when everything else was blooming back to life almost half of the tree refused to grow leaves. It was going to have to come down. He decided to let it blossom one last time. After a long and lonely winter he was out front every morning watching the cherry blossoms on the tree. His axe sharp but sitting in the shed out back until the last blossom fell.