An old woman sat on a cement bench, knitting a rainbow colored sweater. Yarn ran from a tattered bag on the grass to her swiftly moving needles. The lily-covered pond she sat near was alive with flashing Koi, surfacing to feast on a swarm of gnats hovering over the otherwise serene water. Puffy clouds romped like lambs across a cerulean sky while the sun shed its life giving rays to every open corner. In the shade of the trees another old woman painted what she saw at a wooden easel. Further on, a weathered man sat on a yoga mat, channeling his chi into the depths of his soul. His serene smile radiated the joy of existence on such a wonder-filled day. Senior Center outings to the park were a panacea for the bumps and bruises of life that when left untreated often fester into loneliness and bitterness. Rowena Rutledge, activities director, had dedicated her golden years to helping others age gracefully and stay engaged until it was their turn to leave. She was good at her job and made many such moments of happiness materialize in lives that could have slowly faded into obscurity. Sadly, her time was nigh and her only regret was that the center didn’t have the funds to hire a replacement. As she placed bag lunches on the park bench, she could only hope that someone would donate enough money to jumpstart the outdoor activities program.
Hours later, as the rickety bus the center used for excursions wound its way down the mountain, she realized this final journey was still filled with things to treasure. Majestic stately trees. Moss covered boulders in rippling streams. Grass waving in the breeze as Oregon exhibited her beauty. Subtle colors blending in a mélange of textures. Mountains reaching high. As they neared the center, her thoughts turned to her grizzled mutt who’d been a faithful companion for years. She’d hoped he'd either pass before her or that some kind soul would provide comfort in his final days. So far, no one had expressed interest and time was running out. She hated the idea of Rex being euthanized. As she stepped off the bus her soul was filled with elation from the outing but saddened by concern for the dog.
Years earlier she’d made all the arrangements for cremation, signed all the necessary documents to donate her meager belongings to charity, and to funnel what little money remained in her bank account to the center. She’d leave owing no one and would carry the dignity of serving humanity well and proudly to her final moment. As she hobbled into the center an obviously excited young woman approached her. She recognized the woman from a community college program that placed volunteers in nursing homes and senior centers while they earned their degrees.
“Rowena, just the person I wanted to see!” The woman exclaimed. “I have great news. That letter you wrote to the newspaper paid off. An anonymous donor is going to fund the outdoor activities program for the next three years. They’re buying us a better bus and there’ll be money to pay drivers without digging into our funds. Isn’t that wonderful?”
Rowena couldn’t hold back tears of joy as her heart filled with gratitude. Her perseverance at planting seeds finally grew into something that would allow others to age gracefully. However, when she opened the door to her tiny studio, she could tell that Rex was struggling to cling to life. No tail wag. No smile. Barely a recognition of her presence. Removing her coat, she sat down beside him and wrapped the coat around them. Reaching the end together was the best possible solution now that her work on earth was done.