true love

I saw it in his eyes. Eyes that had witnessed more of life then most ever do. I felt it in his hands, trembling now from age. The seasons of time had not left him untouched. Saul was in his eighties. Once a tall, lanky man in his youth, he now walked with the crook of an old oak tree. Bent and curved, but rich with wisdom and dimension was he. Saul was my neighbor, my friend. A man whom I adored. It was fall when we first met. The turn of the leaves had just begun, as much as they do here in California. Being a native, I had grown to appreciate the subtleties. He stood at my door, introduced himself with a rhyme and a bowl of persimmons. Then, with a warm and brilliant laugh he extended his hand. From that moment on, we've never let go. He and his wife, Esther, a woman he gazed upon with the eyes of a young boy deeply in love, lived just across the street from me. She was a round, colorful, woman with long wisps of white hair she wore entangled atop her head in an emerald encrusted hair pin. Esther's body was twisted by arthritis, but she still owned a certain air of passion that made her compelling and strikingly beautiful. Age can never take away the mark of being loved. She'd often tell the story of when Saul gave her the hairpin "It was his grandmother's. He gave it to me wrapped in a poem the day he asked me to marry him, the happiest day of my life." She'd say with pride her eyes twinkling with girlhood charm. "I was just a young thing with coal black hair and bright eyes. My mother wanted me to marry Evan the doctor, but he was such a bore. Saul was from the other side of town. He was working odd jobs to pay his way thru school. Not a dime to his name, but he was the only man who ever made me feel alive and beautiful. All things were possible when Saul held my hand. When your heart feels this way my dear there is only one path to take. Happiest day of my life I tell you." In the nine months I knew them I came to know this story well, but never tired of hearing it. Saul would sit across from her, reach for her hand, and re-live the moment with every telling. Theirs was a love story that had lasted over sixty years and was still in full bloom. Saul and Esther invited me over almost daily. I was in my twenties back then and time afforded me the luxury. It became our treasured afternoon ritual. They'd serve me fresh juice from their fruit trees, often something unique Saul would concoct. "Taste the bitter and the sweet," he'd say, "The bitter is life, the sweet is the love that makes it worth living." Saul never said anything that didn't move me. I loved him for the way his mind wove poetry into the fabric of life. They could never have children, so in a way Saul and Esther took me in as their own. They would often thank me for the time I gave, but I knew it was I who was blessed. They taught me more about love than any other couple I have ever met. They're still teaching me. We'd sit in their backyard and take our turn sharing stories. Esther was a sculptress and when her hands permitted, she'd still work the clay with a master's vision. Their garden was lush, filled with Saul's fruit trees, the iris patch he adored, and Esther's sculptures were everywhere. On tree stumps and benches, on boxes and crates, Saul proudly displayed her work, every one the image of a child. "My dear heart, she's such a talent. She could have been famous, But instead she made us a family of clay. Luckiest man alive I am, luckiest in the world", he'd say then bend down to kiss her clay covered hand. When Saul wasn't busy attending to her every need, bringing Esther water to douse they drying clay she was struggling to form, or scurrying about making sure she had her medication at the appropriate hour, he'd read me his poetry. Witty, intelligent, romantic was he. I was in awe of his grasp of humanity, of love, and of the stream of lucid, thought that belied his years. The first poem he ever read to me was the very one he used to propose to Esther. Although written by a young Saul, innocent and deeply in love, it was as true to life today as it was back then. Esther, Dear Heart In the mist of a dream You come to me Is this earth or heaven Or the passage in between Tell me with your eyes That forever you'll be mine Share my earth and heaven Beyond the end of time In the mist of a dream and all the passages in between Your Saul October 10, 1925 Saul rarely left the house save for on Saturdays when he attended his poetry group. This was the day he hired a nurse to some stay with Esther, for he never left her alone. The retreat gave him something to look forward to and provided him storytelling material for Esther and me in the week ahead. He's muse over the wrinkled crowd of ten who joined him. Their offerings made him sad at times, and he'd say in a hushed tone "So much of life to tell when you're old-so much lost, so much found. Sad to think that no one else listens but your own kind. Tell your tale while you can child. Sing it to the world. And one day maybe you can tell mine. I used to be a lawyer in Brooklyn. Now Im a romantic old poet who picks persimmons. You think you can make a story out of that? "He'd chuckle, then add, "If you do, don't forget my dear Esther. No story of mine would be complete without her in it. She's my life, my reason for being here. Stay true to your heart and one day you shall know the same." Saul took ill before summer arrived, and I watched the ambulance carry him away. I drove Esther to the hospital and stayed until I knew it was time for them to be alone. Saul was fading, we all knew it, and I wanted their ending to be as close as it was in their beginning. Just the two of them, rapt in the waltz. Before I left, I said my good-byes in private thought, fighting back the tears. I took his hand and stroked his cheek, etching the memory in my heart. He looked up at me and in a faint voice said "Taste the bitter and the sweet, child. And don't forget to pick the persimmons." He left us that very night, and with in days Esther,too,was gone. They departed this world together, a promise I am sure they made to one another. As it was meant to be. Their nephew flew in from the East. Knowing little of his aunt and uncle, I was pleased when he asked me my thoughts about their memorial service. I had only three wishes to offer: fill the room with irises from Saul's garden; place Esther's favorite sculptures, her children close to the podium; and lay Esther to rest wearing her beloved hairpin. He obliged and somehow, I felt a certain peace. It was my small gift to two souls who taught me the meaning of forever love. Scores of people attended their service. Little did Saul and Esther know how many lives they had touched. I felt my heart saying "Look Saul, they were listening!" Ten writers stood to read poems written for Saul. How proud he would have been to hear their praise, as creations from Esther's own hands looked on. Finally, I stood and shared the poem Saul had read to me some nine months before, and to Esther over sixty years ago. The beginning of their dream on earth seemed a fitting beginning to their next passage. In the mist of a dream You come to me Is this earth or heaven Or the passage in between.......

Written by Lisa Weeden, from the book "Reflections of Gratitude Across the porch from God"

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