Hodge: Annual reminder of lives lost too soon

I have lots of life to plant and contemplate and some great mentors to keep me company.

The May long weekend holds significance for me in a clash of causes.

My marvellous mother’s mentorship in the garden was mainly conducted in the month of May, when she was bee-hiving busy planting, weeding, and generally putting about the property with a plant in one hand and a bucket of dirt in the other.

Mom could torrentially pour out wise old clichés and euphemisms about growing flowers and vegetables, and I soaked up her words as best I could.

I recall her insistence that the majority of vegetable seeds planted after the May 24 weekend were ‘pretty much a waste of time.’ She was also big on planting in the cool of the evenings.

Guess where Tez and I have been the past month?

The weeds are still winning, but I admit to finding a true peace when toiling in the soil.

Gardens have always been a sanctuary for me; places to heal, slow down, enjoy and remember.

My garden was one of the first places I turned to some 34 years ago on May 21, when one of my dearest companions died.

Butch had spent the night at my house, after helping wife Catherine and I move into a mobile home on a country lot in Tappen, near Salmon Arm.

We worked hard moving boxes and furniture and finally went to bed late. In the morning, we shared a cup of coffee and Butch drove off towards his home in Kelowna.

He never got there.

Apparently Butch fell asleep while driving along the winding highway near Wood Lake, hit the rock face and rolled his car.

His senseless, tragic death hurts nearly as much today as it did then, and I truly know that Kelowna lost a very fine person.

Butch died way too soon and to this day it still makes no sense for most.

I still miss my first ‘brother by choice’ and pretty much every couple of years I write about him come this time of year.

It’s almost like my annual migration but on a human healing journey instead—a mental migrations of sorts upon which I invite readers to ride along.

So why do I lament this tale yet again this year.

Well, as Butch would have wished, his crushing demise did make a huge difference and impact in the lives of many around him. Certainly it impacted buddies Jim and Ralph, and Butch’s family including sister Karie.

His death altered much of how we’ve conducted our lives, formed our thought processes, and made our choices.

I know that several times over the years when I felt lost about an issue I would ask myself what Butch would have suggested, or how he would approve of my choice.

Butch’s memory reminds me regularly just how precious life really is and that none of us truly know how, when, where, or why it will all be taken away.

Butch reminds me of the value in everything: Every breath, every day of sunshine (and every day without sunshine for that matter), the true value of friends and family, and the marvel in something as simple as a snail.

Or a flower in bloom.

His memory is another good reason why I am often discovered hiding out in the garden a lot in around the May 24 weekend.

I have lots of life to plant and contemplate and some great mentors to keep me company.