This morning we were in Little Rock. I got up early to walk in the rain. I found the gate to the cemetary open, so I went in. I kept thinking about what my good friend had told me on the phone on Saturday. I have known him since the fourth grade. He was intimidating in our football games as a kid. He has been diagnosed with a rapidly progressing form of ALS. He told me about taking a walk in his neighborhood in his wheel chair with his dog and some of his family. Every moment, every sight and smell, was so precious. He said that if he could go back to before he had the disease but not have this insight, he wouldn’t do it.
Most of the graves in the cemetary were very old. Many Arkansas governors and senators had been buried there. I didn’t know any of them. So much for the visible fruits of leadership. Some robins were fighting each other on the back lane, and probably weren’t too concerned about the senators and governors either. The rain dripped from the massive old oak trees, trees that were alive before my grandfather, and will probably live after my grandchildren.
I passed a red mulberry tree, very large and very old. I saw a mulberry that was ripe. In the rain, standing on the bones of all these near-famous people and leaders, I wondered if the tree had been covered with insecticide or something. Oh well. I reached out and grabbed the ripe mulberry and ate it. Its juice was both tart and sweet, and rushed through my brain like caffeine.
I plucked another mulberry to take back with me to the room. I wanted to think a bit more about death and disease and mulberries. I poured myself a cup of coffee, mediocre coffee, but that didn’t matter. I looked at the mulberry. It was a deep rich color, though I realized the back side of the berry had already been half-eaten by birds.
I haven’t forgotten to talk about my favorite quote related to enjoying life. I hope I can share it the next time–I’ve written too much tonight.