Looking through the sycamore tree branches from my upstairs desk window, I see Rugby Road pass by our house. Just the other side of our front privet hedge is the narrow sidewalk, where two can barely pass, and then the street, a curving, narrow, flowing stream of blacktop.
When the leaves come and go on the sycamore tree, changing color, falling to the ground, and starting fresh as new buds, they remind me of the passing seasons—and the passing time, Each botanical stage follows its course from beginning to end, to be 63 followed by the next, and then to visit me once again only a year later. Of all the seasons, winter time is the most intriguing, when I can look out my window and study the tree’s mottled bark and gaze with fascination at the rows of burly round fruit hanging from its spindly limbs.
But also in the winter I get a better look at the traffic on the street and passers-by on the walk. Like my window tree, they, too, reflect the seasons, but here the cycle whose stages they portray is much longer. In every person, I see the seasons of humanity, the passing of my own life, in slow but steady stages. Babies in carriages, children on bikes, teenagers and college students rushing by in pairs, adults on their way to work or in their daily exercise routine, and older couples, gray and sometimes hunched, but moving with the steady rush of Rugby Road patrons, just like all the rest.
I see myself on that bike, see myself again as the college student, see myself as a young mother slowly moving down the street, a toddler’s hand held firmly in her own. They all look so much as I used to seem, And then, too, I see myself older, much older, my hair gray, and my figure gone slack. Sometimes I’m walking with my husband, who has aged, too. I see us in those older couples walking unaware past my Rugby Road window.
It’s frightening to see them—all the different ages—moving by so quickly: Sometimes I want to close my blinds and shut them out. Instead I try to look at the sycamore tree and its changing seasons, and to see nothing more beyond.
Sadly, Emily Couric did not live to see a final season of life; her hair never turned gray and her figure never went slack, After a gallant 15 month battle against pancreatic cancer, she died at age 54 on October 18, 2001. A Democrat, she was the first woman state senator from central Virginia. Had she lived, she was deemed almost certainly to become Virginia’s first woman lieutenant governor, and—perhaps ultimately—the Old Dominion’s first woman governor. But in her relatively short life, she achieved more than most achieve in a full lifetime. A mother, author, civic leader, and devoted wife of Dr. George Beller, chairman of the department of cardiology at the University of Virginia Medical Center, she was, as a long-time friend observed at the time of her death, “a true profile in courage.”
Dr. Beller and the University of Virginia School of Medicine are now planning to establish the Emily Couric Cancer Center as a facility which will provide research and treatment into the causes and possible cures for cancer. Donations may be sent to: the Emily Couric Cancer Center Fund, P.O.Box 400220, Charlottesville, VA 22904—4220