‘The Apple’ and ‘The Story behind ‘The Apple’

The Apple

(For Bev)

Souls, like apple seeds, have populated the Earth since time immemorial and have brought with them the possibility of that fruit’s sweet harvest.

Through seasons and stages, they have taken their individual paths, lifetimes—whether long or short—each encompassed by a singular day: the new morning, the busy noon, the dusk with its dinner celebration, followed always by night.

And along the way, miracles: partnership and transformation: seeds in darkness beneath the ground sprouting into the light, buds blossoming in springtime beauty, the promise of bounty to come after maturing through high summer, the rich harvest of the fall.

But the miracles and promise are not always sought or achieved, are sometimes forsaken, sometimes consciously, sometimes not, like intended paths that somehow diverge, blossoms that wither or darken, that don’t yield the potential of their mature fruit.

Yet, despite opportunities lost, those divergent journeys often serve to till the soil, enriching it for new seeds, new chapters, new lives—new seeds gestating in the dark like unseen grace preparing to work its sacred magic.

For example, those travellers whose paths diverged, one going east, the other west, sometimes encounter each other on the other side of the world, in a new time and place, bringing new experience to another opportunity, new seeds in search first of nurture and ultimately of harvest, of unforced bounty achieved as naturally as another abundant apple crop, celebrated in resplendent thanksgiving.

Love, Me.
(Signed by Hans)

The Story behind “The Apple”

Hans Petersen and I were friends for more than forty years. Late in his life, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which was complicated some months later by Lewy body dementia. This led to his decision to use Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) program to end his life on December 1, 2022, the day before his 86th birthday. December 1st is also the day after his wife Bev’s birthday, and the day they often jointly celebrated their birthdays.

Three weeks prior to Hans’s departure, I received a telephone call from Bev advising that Hans told her he urgently wanted to talk to me. With help of the staff at the hospital in Comox, I was able to call from Victoria and have a fifteen-minute phone conversation with Hans mid-morning on Sunday, November 13th. Although it was a bit of a challenge to understand what he was requesting, I grasped that he wanted me to write four lines to be called “The Apple,” which was to be inscribed on a card, signed by him, and left on Bev’s pillow after he was gone.

Hans Petersen, December 2, 1936 - December 1, 2022

Hans Petersen
December 2, 1936 – December 1, 2022

According to the notes I made of our conversation, the poem was to convey that the Earth is sown with apple seeds; that with the different seasons and the different types of apples, that fabled fruit is almost always blossoming or ripening or being harvested somewhere on the planet; and that apples spread goodness around the world.

After producing a short, initial draft, I contacted Hans’s daughter Naomi, explained the assignment I’d taken on, and requested her help by being the intermediary between me and her dad to better understand what he wanted. Naomi read the first draft to Hans on November 15th, took notes on his feedback, and passed this information on to me.

Hans once again emphasized the four seasons, “starting with spring.” The apple seeds represent “all the people that have ever come to this Earthly plane.” They are all “born with the same innate treasure.” Their “goal is to help improve humanity.” People don’t always take advantage of this opportunity. “But there is always the possibility of improvement (important point to him).”

Soon after, he shifted gears and became more personal. He spoke of “two people that have gone through this in their lives (referring to him and Bev).” He noted “metaphorically that one of them goes South … and the other goes North and as they continue to travel/journey they eventually go all the way around the world and come back to meet again naturally” and in an unforced manner. “I think he was referring to his passing and then meeting again in the afterlife.” He asked that the last words be “Love, Me,” which “is how he and Bev would always sign their notes to each other.”

Based on this feedback, I produced a second, longer draft that was six rather than four lines. Naomi went over it with Hans on the 18th. That evening she advised me that Hans “cried. He was heartened and thankful” for what had been written. Naomi left two copies with him along with a pen to make notes or changes. They went over the poem again on the 21st. “He was really pleased with it,” Naomi wrote in an email. “He tears up when he reads it.” No further changes were requested. Instead, the focus changed. As Hans wanted to frame “The Apple” after he’d signed it below “Love, Me,” Naomi brought in four frames for him to consider and from which he made his selection.

Hans gave Bev the framed copy of “The Apple” when they had private time together on December 1st.

I’d had my doubts about being able to effectively capture what Hans wanted for “The Apple”—about translating his inspiration into words. But it turned out to be a relatively straightforward process. Naomi was an excellent conduit between her dad and me. She enabled me to give form to “The Apple” by Hans Petersen.

Patrick Wolfe

 

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