The Apple Orchard
By Helen L. (Hartzell) Guinther
Summer 1985

The events of August 17, 1984, will echo in my memory it seems until the end of all time. For it was through these occurrences on this summer day one year ago that I grew to accept some genuine facts about life that I previously had simply chosen to repressed and deny.

The day was beautiful, warm, but slightly on the humid side. Many folks in our area would have called it near perfect whether for making hay. So many of our days at that time seemed to be spent in the fields aromatically scented with sweet freshly mowed alfalfa. On that particular day our lunch break was delayed until 2:00. The growling in our stomachs along with the sun's cast, giving us clues that the time was well past noon. My husband instructed me to drive the truck back to the house to pick up the lunch I had prepared earlier that same morning. Upon entering the house I heard the faint sound of the telephone ringing. hurrying to halt the beckoning bell, I lifted the receiver and quickly said "Hello". The voice on the other end seemed very familiar, it was my dad. He was quick and to the point after inquiring about the well-being of myself in the rest of the family. His voice seemed a bit rattled and distant as he stated that my grandmother had become very ill over the past week and that she was not expected to lived through the night. There was a slight pause in the conversation as I tried to grasp concept of Grandma possibly being out of my life. "But how could this be?" I question to myself. This was a change that would be too great for me to bear. The sound of dad's voice crashed through the temporary daze I had slipped into, as he inquired to the possibility of me getting away to see her while there was still time. I replied that I certainly could arrange something so that I could make the trip. Giving dad a tentative time in which to expect me to arrive, we ended the conversation abruptly.

Stumbling around the kitchen aimlessly trying to retrieve the lunch I prepared earlier, my mind began to drift back into time. This time capsule of memories I had entered brought me back to an era when Grandma was living at her home, only a stones throw away from the house I was raised in. I could almost visualize her sitting upon the porch swing crocheting with the aroma of her sugar cookies lingering in the summer air like an enticing perfume. I take such security in the knowledge that she would always be only a glance away. Then, tucked deep in my memory I recalled the time when I was a mere six years old, desperately trying to ride my older brother's two wheeler. Now this bicycle resembled a junk yard special and mechanically it was unsound. On this particular occasion, the weak rusted chain gave out, causing me to take quite a tumble on Grandma's crumbling brick sidewalk. Fortunately for me she observed the entire incident from her porch swing and swiftly came to my aide. As she gently untangled me from the faltering wreckage, I could feel the strength of her arm steadying me to my feet, as if I were a toddler being readied to take a first step. She firmly guided me into the house and tended to my wounds. How secure it felt knowing that I could stumble and fall, yet even in my clumsiness, she would always be there eager to steady me back on my way.

The clanging sound of an airborne silver spoon being thrust against the coarse linoleum floor brought me tumbling out of the realm of my memories.

Hastily I rushed back to the field and explained about what had happened. He urged me on my way and assured me not to worry about kids, that he would take care of everything.

After returning to the house for quick bath, I fueled up the car and headed toward Tiffin, the place I had called home for 22 years. The drive seemed exceptionally long that day as I drifted in and out of the threshold of reality.

I found myself longing for the times when Grandma would hold my hand, kiss my cuts and yes, even for the times she would scold me.

But then something strange and wonderful begin to stir within me as I searched my soul for answers. "Dying is as natural as being born". This was the answer that continued to occupy the chambers of my mind repeatedly until I interpreted the meaning  it was conveying. Grandma was nearly a century old. In this time she had lived along Christian life building her faith to greater and greater heights. I then promptly came to the conclusion she is ready for this final step in life's plan. It was at this moment that I could view the entire situation in a totally different light. She is like an apple bright and red, glistening with color and excitement, which has reached its peak of perfection and was now ready to be plucked from the tree. How rare these perfect apples were to find in the Orchard. I felt consoled and at peace as I reminded myself that she has the desired and the destiny to be picked from this tree, just as we all will, and who am I to selfish we wish that it were not so.

The sounds of the bustling traffic of the inner city brought me back to the real world once again. A few blocks more and I would reach the rest home that had been Grandma's place of residence for nearly three years.

As I parked car, my eyes caught site of many familiar automobiles of relatives and friends who must have felt the need, as I did, to say good-bye in a special way.

I entered the front door and was greeted by my dad in the main lobby. I quickly inquired with tears warming my face, "Am I too late?" Dad replied "No" as we embraced each other. Then we both approached grandmothers room there I saw what resembled the remnants of a broken doll that had been loved and cuddled one to many times. She laid there motionless gasping for each breath that entered her failing lungs. I stood at her side it seemed for a lifetime. Then I bent ever so slowly down to her pale wrinkle cheek and planted a last kiss there. Grasping her hand snugly in mine, I noticed blue beads dangling from her fingers like trinkets from a charm bracelet. Realizing with amazement that even now, in her last hour she was praying her Rosary.

Instinctively I knew it was now her time to pass beyond this life and I was humbly prepared to let her go.

Reflecting upon all that had evolved, I began to again see a vision of the Apple Orchard and how similar she was to the fruit that these trees bore. Now at that perfect moment she was ready to be forever plucked from the tree. Thus the Orchard would never again be the same.