The killing cold was due to come, with the change of the seasons. And saying Good-bye can be hard. This year, with all the rains, the LEAD Agency Community Garden got lonely, untended, too soggy to get the tidying-up we like to do before planting the crops that carry over through the winter. When a warm, dry day came, so did the mosquitoes! You may have had similar experiences in your own gardens.

But when the weather report listed night after night this week way below freezing, it was time to evaluate what to dig up, pick, let go to seed or leave for the foraging migrating birds. There are lots of memories made in a garden and ours is no different. People of all ages joined us this year, working, harvesting or just taking a meander through our mix of vegetables and forbs for the pollinators.

On the last walk assessing what next steps to take, it was amazing how much diversity we had, some of which came from the unplanned volunteer plants that made their home with us. Lamb's Quarter with the seeds not quite mature, the stems have turned a distinct reddish purple. Some black eyed susans still were blooming, lots of marigolds had seeded themselves and the strawberries had spread to fill both beds more fully. The Egyptian-walking onions will be providing for us all winter, while the cabbages and cauliflower provide proof the garden will not sleep too deeply.

The corner June Taylor and our young Boys and Girls Clubbers planted for the butterflies produced milkweed with the pods almost ready to harvest for seeds. It was harvest time for the sweet potatoes, the last of the green beans, lots of small green tomatoes that will go in a flat box and hidden in a dark cool place so they will ripen in time for Thanksgiving.

There is time to reflect in the garden, with the cold wind and mist in the face: about the peace there is in growing and the joy from watching people we don't even know, taking a walk through the garden, and stopping to pick some peppers, okra or a sprig of oregano, basil, parsley or sage.

It also gave time to reflect on lives well lived and lives ended way too soon. Last Friday's two different gatherings, for Kayla Billings, a child lost to domestic violence, a child who lit up the lives of the people she knew and found purpose and joy in helping the lives of small animals be better. I didn't get a chance to know her, but in her short life, many others will long mourn for her. The other lost life gathering that day was for Ray Judkins, who like Kayla brought joy to those who knew him, but had great many more years to bless us. He lost his life with Alzheimer's. He might have lost his memories, but no one who knew him lost theirs of him. His infectious smile and true sense of humanity was experienced by all who gathered for his last tailgate party.

People of all ages gave a last goodnight to these two unrelated souls on the same day.

And both died tragically from the plagues of our country, our time on this earth. And like the plagues of past centuries, these two surely will pass. There will be a future without their killers, when we park our guns and each home is safe filled with happy families who work out their disputes with a workout in the garden. And Dementia's hidden causes are discovered and prevention settles in and this disease is just another dilemma we dealt with back in the day.

But until then, we will hold each other closer, enjoy the moments of clarity and know these moments must be cherished before we say our last good nights.

When my mother had a stroke, she lost her ability to read and suffered with bouts of aphasia. So I dusted off my teaching certificate and reached back to my days teaching first graders in a non-English speaking classroom on the Southern Ute Reservation. The children there spoke Navajo, Ute, Apache and Spanish. And just like starting those children from scratch, she and I just started over, learning letters, putting them together and making words and reading the same picture books repeatedly. One of course was "Goodnight Moon" by Clement Hurd. It was a classic, written the year my older brother was born, but one I only discovered because of the 2008 flood. When so many people lost their possessions in that flood, the researchers LEAD Agency was working with at Harvard, began a book drive, sending over 50 huge boxes of new books for us to share with community members, who may have lost all their books, or to those who just loved to read a brand new book. One of the boxes contained that book and another called "Owl Babies" by Martin Wadell. And those 2 books helped my mother regain her ability to read again, which had always been one of her greatest loves.

Understanding the significance of reading, putting our garden to bed, saying goodbye to people who touched so many lives, we know the spring will come, though answers to the big questions may take longer.

Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim

Rebecca Jim is the executive director of the LEAD Agency (www.leadagency.org).