The Butchart Gardens--not one of Pete's designs (that I know of ;))
My last post was about my friend Pete and the fact that he was living his last days here on earth. Five days later, he breathed his last. I have been so incredibly saddened by all of this and came to the conclusion that I have to write this post before I can move along. Here is the story of Pete.
Pete's mother and my uncle's wife were half-sisters. It seems strange that Pete and I didn't meet until I was in the later years of elementary school, as 'back home' is a very small and close community. As it is, I first met Pete after my mother began working for his family and she took me to work with her. He was two years older than me and it was obvious that his task was to keep me entertained so that my mother could get on with her work. Even though Pete was in early middle-school, he never gave me the impression that I was a pain-in-the-ass or that he didn't want to spend time with me. And this is the kind of person he was.
Pete's family owned greenhouses and a floral shop. I still believe that my experiences there are what have made me love flowers and floral design as I do. (I am not now, nor have I ever been, a professional designer--I have taken several classes and enjoy the process of making arrangements very much.) We would walk through the greenhouses and see all of the flowers growing--I remember being shown how they planted poinsettias. Pete and I even 'manned' the road-side store/hothouse on numerous occasions. Other than this, I don't remember much of what we did on the days I spent there. This is when we became friends.
As the years went on, I quit going to work with my mother, but Pete and I then became 'phone-buddies.' The phone was about the only way we kept in contact, as we lived in different towns and went to different schools. This is not to say we didn't get a chance to see each other, just that it wasn't very often. Whenever I would babysit, Pete and I usually had marathon phone sessions. I have no idea what our conversations were about, but I'm sure it helped solidify our friendship.
Just before I began dating my first love, Pete and I went out a couple of times to the movies. It was as friends having fun together, but I often wonder if he would have wanted to move into a different direction. This was not something I was interested in, so any spark was extinguished before it even began. And this worked out well for each of us.
During my 'dating years' of high school, Pete and I had very minimal contact. We both were busy with different aspects of our lives and with him being older than me, he moved onto college and the real world sooner than I did. Pete got his degree in biology at our local university and spent many years working the family business before moving to Oregon. When he moved to Oregon, he got his master's degree in horticulture and met and married his wife. They returned to the family business and he helped make the area just that much more beautiful with all of his gardening skills and advice.
I must say a bit about Pete's skills with everything green. He was the go-to guy when anyone had problems with their lawns or plants--and everyone in a 100 mile radius of where he lived knew him and went to him for advice. Not only did he have his own call-in talk show on the local radio station, but he also taught the master gardener's classes for many years. My sister-in-law tells the story of bringing a tree branch into his store in order to ask advice. She said he told her more about the tree the branch was from than she ever wanted to know and he was able to tell her what was wrong with it and how to take care of it. His knowledge was immense.
Pete and his wife ran the business for 25 years before retiring and returning to Oregon. He continued with his love of 'beautifying' places and worked for the town they lived in as their master landscapist/gardener. After being diagnosed two years ago with leukemia, he was only able to get back to his job for a few short weeks--something that must have saddened him beyond words.
Since high school, Pete and I saw each other rarely. Actually, we had almost no direct contact with each other. We didn't write and we didn't call. This may seem strange, but it is what it is. The most surprising thing, though, is that whenever we DID get together, it was as if we had just talked to each other the previous week. We had a strong connection somehow and time didn't seem to diminish that in the least. When we would see each other, after the first few minutes of catching up with each other's lives, we would settle into our friendship and just be able to talk. It truly was an amazing relationship.
What can I say about Pete, the person? He had the kindest, gentlest spirit of anyone I know. As I said, he was a genius when it came to growing things, but I also remember he played the organ beautifully. (I'm not sure if he continued playing after high school, but I remember him playing for me when I would visit at his parent's house.) He was very spiritual and a very dedicated member of their church. His wife had a particularly bad bout with breast cancer a few years ago and I'm sure her getting through it was partly the reason they were so optimistic about his chances of beating the leukemia. Sadly, it didn't happen.
Arrangements are still being finalized for Pete's memorial services. There will be one in Oregon and another 'back home.' I don't think I will be attending the one back home, simply because of the enormous amount of people that will be there. If less than 500 people attend the service for him, I will be shocked. And in that crowd, I won't be missed by anyone. I will send a card and note to his wife and remember him in my own way.
Dear Pete: I am saddened by your death, but happy that you are now at peace. I cannot imagine the joy you felt when you got to see the gardens of heaven and realized you get to spend eternity doing the very thing you loved best, taking care of flowers. I will never forget you, my friend. With love.