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11 Interventions in the 10 Days of Your Dying

A list of treasures for mourning



Such color, such petal-work on the trail behind our village: Queen Anne’s lace, daisies, goldenrod, wild pea, purple vetch, thistle, meadowsweet—I gather them, remembrance of splendor, to bring home to you.



Oak roots

Heading to the park across from the hospital to call friends with the news, I find no seat but this nexus of roots, rough and exposed as nerves.



A breath of rose

Right there, on a patch of lawn between entrance and sidewalk, a bush of magenta blooms goes ignored by so many worried people. I cross over, inhale a dose of resolve.




I text a photo of my handful, fresh from the garden, incomparably orange, soil clinging to the roots and grooves. Remember when I planted those seeds in their pale, thin sheaths, while you directed from your chair?




After they reveal your prognosis, after we hold each other, bear each other down into the unthinkable, after you call your three grown children, a thunderstorm breaks and the window weeps.



White sun offered on a golden saucer of cloud

On a walk before I leave for the hospital, I watch it rising over the mill pond, as if the unprecedented was ordinary.



Emerging peach

Fuzzy and firm, the color of river stone, this, the only fruit on the tree we planted on our anniversary. If it grows to ripen, I promise you, I will savor it.



Window of woods or window of garden?

Even in the matter of picking a hospice room, we choose our most likely redeemers.



The taste of basil and garlic

Every garden you’ve ever tended flavors this pesto I eat by your bedside as you sleep.



A Snickers bar

Back in the hospital, you asked me to bring you one, but it’s only now, after eating nothing for days, that you think of it. “We’ll share it,” you say. Two bites each, back and forth. Our last meal together.




I have kissed you goodbye, made the calls, packed our things. I step out into a hot summer midnight to the paeans of katydids ringing the trees. The only conceivable response is to set down our bags and bow.

Trebbe Johnson is the author of Fierce Consciousness: Surviving the Sorrows of Earth and Self, and other books, as well as many articles and essays that explore the human bond with nature. She is also the founder and director of the global community Radical Joy for Hard Times, devoted to finding and making beauty in wounded places. She lives in Ithaca, New York.