Jamie Sims Coakley
Last weekend my husband and I spent the afternoon digging and chopping in the garden. One of the beds out front was becoming overgrown with Foxtail Agave and it was time to clean up and prune and generally give the garden some tender loving care. As per my usual fashion, we put all of the extra Agave plants (there were a lot) out on the parkway with a “free” sign and all week they just sat there—not even one was taken away to a new home. These things take time…
Thursday afternoon my doorbell rang and as I looked through the peephole, I saw a small framed woman who was close to my age, on the porch. Her dark hair was pulled back into a messy ponytail and she was dressed casually. I went to the kitchen and opened the window that faces out onto the porch. It’s how I like to talk to strangers when they come to the front door.
“Hello,” The woman said, “I’m sorry to bother you. I live in the neighborhood.”
She turned toward the parkway and the agave. The trunk of her white sedan open.
“Are all of the agave free?” She asked.
“Yep! They sure are! Help yourself.”
“My sister is in the car," The woman gestured in it's direction. "We wanted to take some of the plants…her son, my nephew—he’s the one that was killed down the street…we were hoping we could take some of the plants to beautify the spot where…” She trailed off.
“Oh..." I paused. "I am so sorry to hear that. Of course.” I answered. “Take as many as you need. It would be my honor.” We talked briefly about how to plant and water the agave and I shared my condolences again before she loaded her trunk full, and drove off down the road.
The tragic death of a beloved son—my biggest fear. My only son, my only child happened to be home in bed because he was feeling a bit sick from his Covid booster shot. With tears in my eyes, I headed to his room, climbed into his bed and hugged him tightly. “Oh mom, are you ok?” He asked, hugging me back.
I explained to him what had happened and how grateful I felt that our plants might help people in so much pain. Help them to feel a little kindness and love from strangers and also help them feel they could do something in such a powerless time in their lives.
“I love you, mom. I’m happy you put the plants out for free.” He said.
My son was not planned. I was not really interested in having children, in being a mom. I dropped out of college when he was born, a year shy of my degree because I wanted to be a good, present mother to him. A lot of changes and sacrifices were made by both me and my husband to that end and honestly, my son taught me the most valuable lesson I have learned in my life: that something I thought I didn’t want, could turn out to be an electrifying and wonderful force in my life.
Being a mom has been the main motivation behind all of my creativity. You see, I wanted to be the kind of parent who lived as an example to her child. I wanted him to see that as a woman, as a human, I could be a mother and a wife and a lover and entrepreneur and a friend and an artist. That I could live fully and that if I could, it would mean he could too. I wanted him to grow up watching his father and I find balance between being responsible parents and providers/caretakers and also passionate people committed to making their art, even if that mean’t sometimes working seven days a week, or staying up late to rehearse, or getting up at 4:30 am, when the world was still quiet, because you promised yourself you would get 1000 words a day written until your novel was finished. I did’t want to be the kind of parent who would resent him for things I didn’t do. So I did them.
We can all choose not to believe the tapes that play that tell us to “Stop being a dreamer” or “You aren’t good enough” or “You have to choose” or “It’s time to grow up”. Truth is, there are plenty of hours in the day.
+Carve out a little time, then a little more.
+Make it sacred and allow yourself to feel the joy of creativity.
+Be an example for others.
+Take a chance and go for it.
+Express yourself in ways that make you feel truly alive.
I keep thinking about the family and the loss of their son. My husband looked it up and discovered that he was hit by a drunk driver while in a crosswalk. He was sixteen. There is so much in life we have no control over, but you can make your art. You are the only one stopping you.
Tonight I am going to light a candle and offer up blessings of peace and grace and comfort for that family. Perhaps you also might join in me in saying a prayer or offering up a blessing for them during this horrible time of loss and grief. I am so grateful for the gift that is my son’s presence in my life. Let us be brave enough to live our lives fully for those who cannot.