A woman I admire, Claude Crespy, passed away this morning at the age of eighty. She lived just down from me here on the opposite side of rue Ferlus. We had a rendez-vous for tea last Thursday. I took her the last of the lemon bars I made from the Meyer lemons.
I had just come to know her in the quiet of last winter when I came here to hole up and write. K and M, from whom I bought this house, introduced us. They knew I was a gardener with only a container garden on the patio here and that Claude had a large garden space just down the road in the countryside. We went to her garden several times together, to pick flowers or apples and sit in the sun. I made an apple crisp for her and my other neighbors from the apples from her tree.
Claude was a highly educated single woman who had been born in this village and grown up here. Her parents used to be the proprietors of one of the small groceries here. She carried a lot of the history of the village in her heart. She had traveled and lived outside the village for awhile and spoke English quite well, once upon a time. She came back and was living in a part of the house in which she grew up.
She had a stroke a year ago November and it was tough going at first. Even though her garden is just a little over a block from her house, she would drive down there from the disabled parking space the village marked out for her here on the street, unlock the gate and hobble in using two canes to spend time there. Last Fall, she was easily fatigued and had taken to giving me the key to the garden gate so that I could stay longer when she needed to go home and lie down.
But she was looking better when I arrived this year. Her hair had been colored again and permed. She was walking more easily and getting out to see friends more often. She shared some fleurs de coing japonais, flowering quince branches, with me from her garden last week that grace the table in my study even now.
My next door neighbor, Elodie, did cleaning and grocery shopping for Claude for awhile after her stroke. It was Elodie who came by to make sure I knew about Claude this afternoon just as I was listening to this song. The music brought tears to both of our eyes as it played in the back room and we spoke of Claude.
Il vaut mieux pour elle. Elle était une femme solitaire, said Elodie. It was better for her. She was a solitary woman. She would have been very unhappy in the maison retraite retirement home with all the others, we agreed.
We already miss you, Madame Claude Crespy.
May flights of angels sing thee to thy sleep.
Baisers de la tristesse.