At some point in your life, you will contemplate the end and question what it is like to depart from the only thing you’ve known. Hesitation and uncertainty might consume you to the core, or a sensation of comfort and contentment will set you free.
In Four Seasons, Chris Widener shares the relatable journey of Jonathan Blake and his family through a year in their life, confronted with unavoidable tragedy. After he is diagnosed with cancer, Jonathan reflects on the growth of his children, watching them take life into their own hands and create light in the darkest of times. The Blakes encounter the grandest of joys through the celebrations marking the passing of special events, as well as the withering burden of the painful paths we are all expected to travel at different times. With life coming to a halt, he cherishes every waking moment and doesn’t allow fate to slow him down or hold him back from making change.
Honest and heartfelt, delicate and intense, Four Seasons is both a beautiful celebration and a shocking aftermath. The four seasons of life are guaranteed; they will come eventually to everyone. This is the story of how the four seasons came to one family and how they lived through them with courage, strength, and purpose. Jonathan’s journey reminds us that there is a balance in life—celebrating the joys it brings and the sorrows of death.
Now it’s up to you… will you take your turn putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, visualizing life through the perspective of another? Are you ready to see a glimpse of reality?
|Made For Success Publishing
|5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x (d)
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
March 10, 3 p.m.
As Jonathan Blake turned off Roxiticus road and into his drive, he pushed the console button that would open his gate, and the massive, wrought-iron gates began to open. While waiting, his gloved hand on the stick shift, his eye caught the marker on the brick post. It read “Three Lakes, est. 1946.” When the gate had opened far enough, Jonathan eased his black luxury car through and continued up to the house. Jonathan had always cherished Three Lakes, but this afternoon, he loved it more than ever. Moving slowly up the mile-long driveway, he surveyed the land on which he had lived for most of his life. The massive, glorious trees that guarded the front entrance created a secluded tunnel leading to the first of the three lakes sitting just off to the right, a quarter-mile up the driveway. Lush, rolling terrain that occupied most of the rest of the 157 acres that made up the estate welcomed him warmly this afternoon.
The drive from Manhattan had taken him roughly an hour and 15 minutes. Having until two years ago been the owner of some 50 city and county newspapers up and down the East Coast, Jonathan had driven in and out of Manhattan thousands of times during his lifetime. This trip was different, though. There was so much to think about today, so much weighing on his mind. Monumental events loomed on the horizon—events that would affect Jonathan and his family profoundly and change their lives forever. Normally, the drive from the city to Three Lakes was a calm and soothing one, changing slowly along the way from the sterile, high-rise atmosphere of the fastest-paced city in the United States, to the natural, colorful scenery of the area surrounding Far Hills, New Jersey, deep in horse country. The drive usually drew Jonathan through an inner change, taking him from the overworked executive to the relaxed husband and father, ready to spend time with his family. Not so this day. The mind-numbing thoughts racing to and fro had made this drive seem nonexistent. By the time he approached Three Lakes, he was dull from the desperate mental exertion. He negotiated the drive on autopilot.
Nearing the house, Jonathan reached to touch another button, and the second stall of the five-car garage opened, making way for him to park. He slowed down and eased the car into its resting place. Turning off the engine and climbing out of the car, he pressed the opener again and closed the garage door behind him. The first stall, closest to the door to the mudroom, was reserved for his wife Gloria’s car, but seeing that it was gone, he knew that the house was his, at least for a time.
He rarely felt this way, but today he was glad Gloria was gone. He needed some more time to himself before revealing the tragic news.
The house on Three Lakes was enormous. At 23,000 square feet, the English Tudor-style home built by Jonathan’s father on the rolling landscape outside of Far Hills was the quintessential Northern New Jersey estate. It had five bedrooms in the family quarters, a two-bedroom guest wing above the garages, and a formal dining room that seated 32 when the large cherry table was extended. The huge kitchen was where wonderful family memories began, where feasts were prepared for the hungry family to enjoy. In addition, there were formal and informal living rooms, a den, a recreation room complete with a billiards table built in 1865, and two offices, one for Jonathan and one for Gloria. The two rooms that set Three Lakes apart from the other large homes in the area were the library and the ballroom. It was Jonathan’s mother, Charlotte, who, indulging a lifelong love affair with books, made sure that her husband, Edgar, included a library when he built the home. It was two stories high, with bookshelves all the way around its 1800 square feet, holding 20,000 volumes. All of the great books of history were there, and Jonathan, also a book lover and avid reader, had spent hundreds of hours in the library reading them. The room was decorated exquisitely with overstuffed leather couches, recliners, and study tables in the corners, complete with a banker’s lamp on each. Providing access to the volumes on high shelves above your head was a two-story, rolling oak ladder that moved around the perimeter of the room.
The second special room was the 4000-square-foot ballroom. Throughout their years together, Edgar and Charlotte had hosted many a party there and always engaged the most popular bands and ensembles to entertain their friends, relatives, and business acquaintances. A large chandelier hung like a sparkling beach umbrella in the center of the room, while off to the side were sitting areas around the wooden dance floor where tired dancers could talk, enjoy good food, and drink their wine or champagne. A huge fireplace dominated the outer wall, and in the winter months, guests looked forward to the warmth of a crackling fire. Large, two-story windows around the room gave way to broad, sweeping views of the gazebo, the front gate below, and the largest of the three lakes. The room was, quite simply, breathtaking.
Edgar and Charlotte Blake had built the home as a place in which to raise their two children, Betsy and Jonathan, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It was their permanent family retreat. When Jonathan was 20, his older sister died in a freak drowning accident. Edgar and Charlotte then lived alone after Jonathan left for college, their solitude punctuated with frequent visits home from Jonathan and later, Jonathan and Gloria.
When Edgar died at the age of 64, he left the house to his wife, Charlotte Wilson Blake. She died four years later, and the house in which Jonathan had grown up became his. Jonathan, Gloria, and their four children have lived there ever since.
After entering the house through the mudroom, Jonathan moved quickly through the kitchen, stopping only briefly at the preparation island in the middle of the room to see what had come in the mail that was laid out there. He quickly perused the stack and came to the conclusion that there was nothing important, at least not compared to what else had been occupying his mind since this afternoon. He left the kitchen cutting through the formal living room, down the hall, through the main foyer, and into his haven, his office.
Jonathan always felt safe and at home in the office that had originally been his father’s. Scores of books nestled in the bookshelves, surrounded by dark, rich, mahogany woodwork and leather furniture. He settled into his favorite chair next to the glass cabinet that held his favorite hunting rifles and shotguns, slipped his tired feet out of his shoes, and raised his legs to rest on the ottoman. Reaching over to the table next to him, he opened a small humidor and took out an Opus X cigar, one of the small pleasures of his life. Jonathan never smoked more than one per week when he was working, as he didn’t want them to become commonplace but to remain a special privilege he allowed himself as a reward for making it through another hard week at the office. Since retiring, though, sometimes he would allow himself an additional cigar during the week. After cutting the tip off, he took the lighter from the table and lit the cigar. Jonathan savored the rich aroma of the cigar. He loved the smell and had since he was a little boy when Edgar would relax with an occasional cigar.
There he was, home by himself and left to his own thoughts. The quiet of the house was deafening as he sat motionless, his head resting against the back of his chair. He stared out the window toward the backyard, where he could see the gazebo and the fields beyond. He looked longingly over his land and dreamed of what the future might have held.
“How will I tell them?” he wondered. “When will I tell them? What will they think? What will they do? How can I let them down like this?” As a cloud of cigar smoke curled into the air, his eyes turned toward what the Blake family affectionately called “The Wall.” The walls of the office were covered with artwork, plaques, and diplomas, but “The Wall” was reserved for the special photos that, taken together, told the story of his life. Jonathan put his cigar down in the ashtray and walked deliberately to the wall to gain a closer look. There stood Jonathan Blake. He was a tall, good-looking man. At 6-foot-1 and 175 pounds, he was still in good shape, though in these later years in life, he had lost a little weight as some of his muscle mass had disappeared. In his younger years, he had weighed close to 190, a picture of good health. Now, his hair was dark, with just a touch of gray, the symbolic mist of wisdom framing his temples. His eyes were steel blue. All in all, he had leading-man good looks.
Set among the pictures were his 12 favorites. He buried both hands deep in his pockets and, moving from left to right along “The Wall,” he considered each picture and the time of life it represented. There was the picture of Jonathan and Betsy, aged 10 and 12, along with their parents, out in the back of the house next to the original gazebo, still full of vim and vigor, ready for life. He remembered the day well. It was warm and sunny, and he was a typical boy. His mother and father had asked him repeatedly to settle down and leave his sister alone so that they could get on with the picture taking. It was an amateur family portrait, but it captured this family, and that was what was significant. It showed them on the land that they loved, together for a moment in time. Jonathan thought of what a beautiful woman Betsy would have been had she lived. She had a broad, white smile that was infectious. Jonathan wished that his family could still be together. Now, as the other three were gone, this was an important picture, an important memory, for Jonathan. It was a connection to his past, his original family, his blood. His eyes turned to the picture of him and Edgar fishing in Pennsylvania. Charlotte had captured this on film when Jonathan was 14 on one of the family’s vacations. Edgar loved to fish and hunt, a passion that he eagerly and successfully instilled in his only son. In this photograph, Jonathan, not Edgar, was reeling in the big one, something that didn’t happen very often. Jonathan’s boyish grin was the center of the picture, his father’s smile of pride in his only son a close second. Jonathan looked just like Edgar, simply younger.
Just below that was a picture of Jonathan’s lacrosse team at the Delbarton Catholic Boys High School outside of Morristown. The Blakes were Presbyterian, but Jonathan, and then Jonathan’s two boys, Michael and Thomas, all attended Delbarton because it provided the finest education money could buy in that area of New Jersey. Thomas, the youngest of Jonathan and Gloria’s four children, would graduate that spring from Delbarton and then go on to Princeton University, another family tradition.