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The Bench

There is a plain, wooden bench down by the river. You can read on a small, weathered, brass plaque on the top rung of the back that it’s in honour of a woman who was born in 1888 and died in 1997. I thought, what a wonderful tribute to a lady that lived to be 109 years old.

I sat on the bench for a while and looked out. I could only see the river between the poplars and brush that have grown there. They blocked most of the view. Then, I thought about what she must have been able to see from the place where the bench now sits. When she was younger, those poplars and bushes wouldn’t have existed. Might it have been a favourite place to sit and dream?

The short trail to it meanders down between a few evergreens that would have existed as younger trees when she was there. She could have sat on the ground and looked out on the river without anything interfering with her view. She may have tossed a few rocks into the flowing water. Whatever she did, she must have found it a peaceful, contemplative place to visit. I think it still is. Behind her, on the land, there might have been farm fields worked for grain and other crops, but maybe not—maybe there was pasture for cattle. Back at the start of the 20th century, the small village of Cochrane was off to the east, marked by grain elevators and a CPR train station.

One hundred and nine—quite a life. What incredible changes she must have seen in her day. I reflected on the comparison with my mother and father, who were born in 1898 and 1897. Pondering over how different life must have been back then, I thought I would try to find out something about her and her family, so I went on a search. I was surprised with what I found.

Instead of being thrilled about finding aspects of the 109 year old’s life, I found out that the dates on the plaque (Born 88; Died 97) were not about a 109 year old, but rather an 8 or 9 year old. Instead of good thoughts about the long life of a person, I was faced with my emotions around an unfair death of a young child. From my contemplation of peace and a life well lived, now it was about a child who never got a chance to live much of a life at all. And what about her parents and extended family? Somehow, it doesn’t seem right for a parent to outlive their child.

I’ll go back to that bench again, but I’ll need to put the thoughts of that young girl in my mind trunk. I’ll only use the bench as a place for rest and keep my mind in the moment. Maybe I’ll find it a useful place for contemplation of my own life. Time will tell.

What a mind journey that was. Created out of false assumptions, I know, but somehow a virtual journey I’m glad I made.



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