As a little girl, I remember early on learning the lyrics to the song Billy, Don't Be a Hero, a sad anti-war song but I also could sing along with Tie a Yellow Ribbon, the song about a prisoner who asks his love to show him whether she wants him back after he's done his time -- as his bus approaches the house, he sees a hundred yellow ribbons 'round the old oak tree.
I thought of that song this morning as I was walking the dog, as I walked past trees marked with lime green ribbons. I thought of other ribbons, those worn for solidarity with breast cancer, AIDS, violence against women.
We have a lime green ribbon wrapped around one of our maple trees. It has sagged about a foot since we tied it there at the end of May, the week after young Lydia Herrle was hit by a garbage truck while getting off the school bus. She's the age of my middle child and a friend of a friend. She's also the daughter and granddaughter of Herrle's Farm Markets, home to the best corn in the region. I think many people, for that reason, felt connected with the family and the tragedy of Lydia's accident. Her friends and family asked people to post ribbons in Lydia's favourite colour, to stand in hope with them that, like a butterfly, she would come out of the cocoon that was her serious coma.
I thought of her often this summer and our family talked about and prayed for her, following updates her parents kept in a transparent blog. Many of us get involved in causes when they touch our lives, even peripherally; we can't do everything, and so we follow our hearts. But causes are big things -- curing cancer, ending HIV-AIDS. Lydia is a smallish girl.
For a while this summer, it looked like there was the possibility that she would not emerge from her coma. As I mowed the lawn, I looked at the green ribbon and I wondered what we would all do if she stayed dormant. What would we do when the ribbon frayed, bleached, ripped? How long do you hold onto hope?
And then, Lydia's progress quickened. She began to focus her eyes, to swallow, to speak, to take tentative steps, to walk, to come home for weekends and now to stay. She has a long recovery ahead of her, but she is clearly and remarkably mending.
I asked our mutual friend when the time would be right to take down the ribbons. The family has decided that they will hold a homecoming celebration for Lydia once their farm market is closed for the season, that they will invite everyone who has held them up in hope and prayer to remove their ribbons, line the laneway and wave them in celebration.
The day I told my family that Lydia had first spoken, I said it with an unexpected sob. I know I won't be alone in crying that day -- for a girl I don't think I've never met.
But I don't know that the tears are just for Lydia -- nor are they for the there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I of the situation. It's for all the ribbons that get old and worn, the causes that are not done yet, the new cases of cancer, the worries and the aches, the lumps and the losses.
It could have gone entirely differently with Lydia; there are no guarantees. I see this as a miracle, as answered prayer -- but there are times when prayer is not answered with a yes, when the reply stings.
But the waving of the green ribbons, tattered as they may be, is a renewal of hope for all these situations. It's saying that this time, we can surely and easily celebrate. It's one happy ending that can bolster us up for all the hundreds of ribbons we have tied around each of our trees.
Welcome home, Lydia.