Letters from Jennie

The end of last year, in early December, I lost a very special English friend to cancer. Jennie was a kind, gentle and extraordinarily gifted woman who so appreciated life and living and fought her last battle with dignity, humor and great courage. We corresponded for nearly twenty-five years, beginning in August of 1988. Her letters, always a joy to read, were warm-hearted and filled with the colorful details of life in a small English village. Along with stories of typically eccentric English activities such as Cow Pat Roulette, Wheelbarrow Races, Bell Ringing Practise, Teddy Bear Picnics and the Downton Cuckoo Fayre, she shared her own adventures in the English, Scottish and Welsh countryside visiting great houses, gardens, sea-side retreats and local pubs. She also told intriguing tales of Amber Cat, Aristotle the Axolotl, Bunter Rabbit, Sidney Hedgehog and George Cat. She was a natural born writer with a sharp sense of humor and will be remembered as an inspiration to all who knew her. It’s my honor to share some of her words.

“Great news! Amber Cat has acquired a boyfriend! The only thing is that he is geriatric and only has one eye and a limp! She suddenly became adventurous after nearly a year of never leaving our garden, climbed a fence and got into a neighbouring garden which just happened to be the territory of the aforementioned visually impaired suitor. His doting owner tells me that on sighting this comely, overweight but aristocrataic feline vision he rushed through his cat flap and confronted her. Obviously love at first sight! After some posturing and a few verbal exchanges they settled down together on the lawn in the sunshine. They have both been ‘seen to’ as my dear mum used to call it so I will not be hearing the patter of tiny paws in the future–anyway the owner says that Fred is so old he would have forgotten what he was meant to do anyway! So their friendship is just platonic. Apparently since this all began the old boy has taken on a new lease of life, is eating for England and has even started to wash himself again. Just shows what a bit of crumpet can do for a chap!”

“Well spring has arrived here and at last we have had one or two warm, dry, sunny days . . . Everything is once again fresh and green. I heard the first cuckoo yesterday and the swallows are arriving. My garden is full of spring flowers and all the fruit trees and bushes are loaded with blossoms. We shall have some good crops this year. Went for a glorious walk last weekend by the river, through the woods and then up on the downs. The woods were full of primroses and bluebells–a lovely sight. The children always quieten when we enter the woods as in parts it looks dark and forbidding. As we walked we startled some pheasants who flew scolding out of a thicket.”

“Do not stand at my grave and weep. I am not there. I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow. I am the diamond glints on snow. I am the sunlight on ripened grain. I am gentle autumn rain. When you awaken in the morning’s hush. I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circling flight. I am the soft star that shines at night. Do not stand at my grave and cry. I am not there. I did not die.” — Anonymous

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