I’ve always been curious about a bench I pass whenever I take a walk through the park. A bouquet of silk flowers is tied to the metal arm rest at each end of the bench, and a small plaque is affixed to the centre of its back. No other bench in the park is so decorated. Why is that? I often wondered. Well, on one of the last sunny autumn days of the year, I decided to satisfy my curiosity and see why this bench was so special.

Sometimes I saw people chatting happily on the bench and, for some reason, children always seemed to be attracted to it, climbing all over it while a hawkeyed parent perched at one end, ready to pounce if the little one looked ready to tumble. Once, a fellow placidly sat and ate a piece of chocolate cake from a plastic takeout container. I remember him especially, because it made me cake hungry for the rest of the day. (I later settled for French fries, a – ahem – healthier alternative.)
So on my latest walk, the bench was empty, inviting me to rest in the warm afternoon sun, and watch the rest of the world go by. How could I say no?

I read the plaque. It was dedicated to Janet, in appreciation for all the work she had done for the city. I smiled, thinking Janet must have been a wonderful woman to be remembered in such a way.

That thought was like a key turning in a lock. I suddenly felt the presence of an older woman who loved gardening. Flowers – their beauty and their scent was so important to her. She loved sitting and gazing out over the lake; though this was not her favourite bench, it was in her top three.

Janet had a great sense of humour and made me laugh. Oh, they shouldn’t have gone through all this fuss for me, she told me with a chuckle. But she appreciated their kind thoughts.

I sensed that when she passed, she was surrounded by friends, and there was much weeping at her well-attended funeral. She often visits her best friends from the other side, bringing with her the scent of flowers, and does what she can to make them smile.

Tell them that I love them, she said to me.

“I can’t,” I replied. “I wish I could, but I don’t know them.”

Ah, well, she said with a sigh. But if you get the chance…

“Of course,” I said.

The sun slid behind a cloud and the autumn day did what an autumn day does best. I turned up the collar of my jacket and stood up. Before walking away, I thanked Janet for talking with me, and said a blessing for her.

You too, dear, I heard in my inner ear.

How lucky Janet was to have so many friends. It just goes to show – you never know how greatly you affect people’s lives. I’m sure next spring I’ll come back to the bench and say hi. And I’m sure Janet’s many friends will do the same. For when it comes to remembering our dear ones, a bench in the sun beats a gravestone every time.

If you have any questions or comments on this subject or on any other spiritual matter, feel free to contact me through this website. And please visit me again!

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