She was in the garden outside her ground floor condo one day when she lost her footing and went down. Late spring, mild temperature, the smell of wisteria, still some tulips, bluebells lingering, nicotiana beginning, tall stalks of delphinium with nubs that would bloom blue.
It's a corner building and her large garden was bordered on two sides by public spaces, a sidewalk leading up from the beach on the west side; an alley on the north. Turning to her right, then her left, getting on her hands and knees, she tried to raise herself. There was going to be bruising, she knew, but nothing important seemed to be broken. Still, she is 92, and while more or less healthy and fully cognizant, she could not get up. She heard people walking by and hollered for help. There is a gate a potential rescuer could have come through, or just talk through, but, at eight feet, the fence was too high, any cracks too crowded with bright vegetation for anyone to see her. She lay back thinking. This could be it. She might die here in the garden and that might not be too bad. Already she had lost a daughter to cancer, other family members in other cruel ways. Still, she is a social person and to die like this, hidden from everyone's view, lying among the paving stones and flowers. Help! she called again.

On the other side of the country, about the same time of year, a man a little older, 94, a music lover who lived with his cat and his bird, and who listened to Saturday Afternoon at the Opera religiously, this man also fell and couldn't get up. In his case it was un accident vasculaire cérébral, as is said in Québec, and it immediately paralyzed his left side. He went down by the door to the balcony of the third floor apartment where had lived some thirty-four years. Perhaps about to open the balcony door to admire the newly green trees, the flowers beginning to blossom on the front lawns of the old houses one street over from the Plains of Abraham. The bird continued to chirp, the cat curled around his head, as it liked to do, and when rescue finally came the next day, the cat hid somewhere in the back store room among sacs of last year's applies and a barrel of organic oats. Perhaps the man lay there thirty hours before his neighbour became curious. The walls in that old building are thin and she was used to his sounds. But she had just returned from abroad. Nothing was as usual that day. How did he find the pencil, the paper that stated she, the neighbour, was to have all his unused food? That directed her to the place where he'd left a set of instructions that began, "If it appears that I may have died, please make no heroic efforts to resuscitate me..." and ended with a P.S. about the location of the cat and bird food. His will was attached.

Did he sleep for a few of the thirty hours? If only he had been able to reach the radio. He loved music. But his neighbour, hearing music, might not have eventually wondered why she wasn't hearing it and thus might not have gone to check. Instead of thirty hours, he might have lain there longer and eventually breathed his last on the floor, with his cat by his side and the bird chirping its displeasure at the lack of food. Instead he died in the hospital where no heroic measures were taken, as he wished.

As for the woman in the garden, she slid herself on her bottom, inch by inch, from the garden to the patio door. Perhaps three hours after she hit the ground she hefted herself over the doorsill, and continued inching across the carpet --- oh, the burns! she'll tell you --- toward the phone, by which she immediately called 911.

She doesn't recount all that passed through her mind as she lay among the flowers in her garden, only small details, such as the thought that it wouldn't be such a bad place to die. The old man never said what was going through his thoughts. For one thing, he couldn't actually speak, and his eyes, when he opened them for the final time, revealed nothing at all.