The tree would never bear fruit again. It once provided the whole neighbourhood with crisp tasty apples. Harry delighted in handing one to each child passing on the way to school and bagfuls to their mothers for pies and crumbles, cobblers and dumplings.
The leaves shrivelled and branches drooped when Harry battled the insidious cancer wreaking his body. It seemed to recover when Harry went into remission but that was short-lived; leaves and tiny green apples dropped, and sap ceased to flow on the day Harry drew his final breath.
The children and grandchildren were a comfort to Kathy, visiting often and offering help whenever needed. Her sons took turns mowing the lawn while Kathy maintained the flower beds, for the garden was where she felt closest to Harry, in the yard of the little cottage where they’d spent the fifty years since their marriage.
“We’ll cut the old apple tree down, Mum,” said her eldest, sipping fresh lemonade after mowing the lawn.
“No,” said Kathy.
“But Mum,” he said gently, “the tree is gone, just like Dad. There’s nothing we can do.”
“No,” she said.
He didn’t push. “Okay Mum, but let us know when you’re ready.”
Her daughter asked if she would like help sorting Harry’s clothes to take to the charity shop.
“No,” she said.
The first anniversary of Harry’s death loomed. Kathy seemed to be coping but the family watched closely and visited even more often.
Neighbours noted lights on until the wee small hours. Poor Kathy, they thought, she’s missing Harry.
The day before the anniversary, Kathy asked her eldest grandchild to stay. A handsome lad of eighteen, he resembled his grandfather closely and grinned just like him when she confided her plan. They worked late into the night.
In the morning, children passing stared in amazement. Fairy lights glittered through the branches…and apples.
Kathy handed one to each child. Little stuffed apples she’d sewn from the fabric from Harry’s clothes. “Something to remember Harry,” she said.
The children smiled. Kathy smiled. The tree had borne fruit again.