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The Healing Tree


Chapter 28

Tác giả: unknown

It had been thirty years since we’d planted The Healing Tree in the garden. Now I was coming back for what I knew would be my last visit. Robbie picked me up at the care center. He’d pushed my wheelchair slowly through the hospital corridors, solicitous of the memories – painful and beautiful – that inhabited this place of healing, which for a deeply-etched fragment of time had been my home.

We paused for a long time at the hallway leading back into the oncology unit. Even after all these years, they’d maintained the display featuring some of Maggie’s best poems, the Maggie-grams that had touched so many lives in the course of her own too-short life. I smiled at the picture of my little mermaid’s impish face with the dazzling green eyes and the wild red hair that only I knew was the only thing about her that wasn’t real.

A young hospital volunteer in a blue polo shirt held the door open for us. It was a lovely September day, and a faintly exotic breeze drifted across the garden, inspiring the wind chimes to make their music. The Healing Tree – which had been no more than ten inches high when Maggie first brought her into my room – now towered over the rest of the garden. Robbie pushed my wheelchair up to the brick-lined border and I heard the long-familiar click of the wheels being locked. We sat in silence, Robbie’s hands resting on my shoulders.

Something was moving under the tree, something vague and fuzzy. These old eyes are playing tricks on me. I shut my eyes and felt the breeze play across my face and sing softly in my ears. It was a familiar song, long unheard but never forgotten. An angel in the window, a mermaid on a moonbeam. When I opened my eyes again, the image under the tree had become more distinct. There was a little girl on a swing. Her long red hair flowed wild in the wind, her emerald eyes twinkled.

The girl in the swing looked back over her shoulder at the man pushing her. A man I had not seen in over thirty years. The only man I had ever loved.

They were waiting for me.

I put my hands on the arms of the wheelchair and slowly pushed myself up. Like an old sailor standing on dry land after a long voyage, it took me a while to regain my balance. I rocked back and forth a few times, then took a tentative first step. Then another. Mark and Maggie encouraged me on. A few more steps.

I looked back over my shoulder one last time. Robbie was still standing there, his hands on the shoulders of the lady who had once been broken. I smiled and waved, though I knew I’d stepped into a world that my son could not yet see. Then, hand-in-hand with the man I’d always loved and the daughter I’d always longed for, I walked into forever.

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