With spring’s beauty, memories come flooding back

Published 7:45 pm Saturday, March 28, 2009

Pages from a March journal: Our lives have no blank pages. Each is marked by a special event or an unexpected occurrence, a piercing moment of grief or one of exquisite joy. Awareness of the reason for each is often as fleeting as the hours of each day, a recognition that may not come until a stray memory brings it to mind. It is then these moments return, ephemeral but as sharply felt as when they were tucked away in the small secret room each of us keeps in our heart.

Tuesday of this week is the day set for my mammogram, nine years since my mastectomy and one of great significance in the timetable of my recovery. As the appointment grows closer I try to put my nervousness about the results into God’s hands, but they linger. Each year, on the week before the procedure it seems that every television cable channel has a program or a public service announcement about breast cancer. As anxiety increases, the memories of that March grow stronger until sleep becomes almost impossible. The arrival of the appointment day will come almost as a relief.

Memories of these yearly mammograms are not always accompanied by apprehension. The first few after the initial surgery introduced me to Virginia Johnson, who at that time performed the procedure. Not only was she highly qualified — the walls of her small office at The Vaughan were filled with documents of certification — she was gentle and compassionate. Her kindness those first years made one of my life’s most difficult times easier to accept. After completing the procedure she often left for a short while, then returned, smiling, to tell me that Dr. Joe Hagood had taken the time to read my X-rays on the spot, which meant no more days of anxious waiting.

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Many of the days of my life have been numbered by the kindness of people such as they. God bless them.

Leaving the hospital on that day each year so strongly brings thoughts of my mother that I turn into New Live Oak Cemetery for a visit with her and often find myself in the middle of one of Selma’s most beautiful springs, as I expect to this year. Mobile is, of course, known as the Azalea City, but our town surely deserves second place. Each pathway and drive through the cemetery is a mass of silky blossoms in tones of pink, rose, red and white. On the resting place of my family the camellia planted by my father more than 50 years ago and now grown into a giant, is still in bloom, with its blood-red petals dropping beneath to the headstone of my husband. A fragrant breeze often stirs the glossy green leaves of the sturdy oaks that make of New Live Oak a small urban forest, where snowy dogwood branches drift through with fluttering fingers.

God is surely in his heaven in this holy place, I think, as I gaze in delight at the beauty before me. And each year, in that moment, my mother’s voice speaks softly through my memories: “Today, darling, all is right with your world.”

So it was, so it shall be this year.

Addendum: To enjoy this magnificant spring, walk through old Live Oak Cemetery, one of the loveliest places in the Blackbelt, then turn into New Live Oak and stroll through its quiet streets. Both places are