For JW. And for Mary.
The old hobbit sat in a chair outside his front door, wrapped in a cloak against the early morning chill and enjoying a pipe in the fresh breeze blowing off the sea. His home was built high up in a hill overlooking the shore and the seabirds, and he could just make out the harbor in the pre-dawn light. While he could hear the sea from his perch on the hill, he often liked to go down to the shore to listen to its voice more fully. There was some activity on the docks already; they were preparing for the arrival of the ship today. Soon he would start down the path that led to the shore and make his way there. But he would wait until it got a little warmer - he knew he still had time, even if he didn't walk as quickly as he used to. And he hadn't had a proper breakfast yet. His pipeweed quite gone, he rose and went inside.
Moving just a bit gingerly, he built up the fire, then cut up some bacon and potatoes for the frypan and put the kettle over the fire. As he got first breakfast started he thought back to another ship, one carrying a certain young Master Frodo Baggins of the Shire. He thought about how wounded and quietly despairing that hobbit had been when he arrived at these shores. Really quite heartbreaking, that one was. And when old Bilbo died about a year later, well, that had just about done in the young master. Thank Eru for Gandalf, he had come to stay with young Frodo through that hard time. It was shortly after the funeral that Gandalf and Frodo traveled away together inland.
Gandalf took the young hobbit to a very special place. Frodo had first heard about Lorien from Bilbo and Gandalf and the Elves on the ship. It was the garden of the Valar Irmo and Este, where the Valar themselves went for rest and healing. He hadn't really understood about it though, as he hadn't really understood about a great many things in those days. The old hobbit smiled to himself. "And just who is so wise at such tender years, eh?" he asked the frypan hissing over the flames. He put out a couple of eggs to crack over the bacon and started slicing some fresh grainy bread.
Gandalf stayed with Frodo in Lorien for a few weeks to make sure that he was settling in, then left Frodo in the care of Este the Gentle. When Gandalf returned for Frodo, he saw the change in him immediately. Much more time in Lorien would be needed, but the healing had started and that was enough. Gandalf had prepared a surprise for Frodo's return. As they climbed the little path Frodo looked up at him with curiosity, something that he hadn't shown in a very long time. When he saw the round door set into the hillside with windows on both sides, flowers and vegetables growing in the little garden behind and smoke rising from the chimney poking out from the top of the hill, Frodo understood. He stood in deep silence for several long minutes, his head bowed and his four-fingered hand resting on his breast. He raised his face to Gandalf and his cheeks were wet with tears, but his smile was profound and sincere. "Thank you, Gandalf." was all he said.
The smial was small, as hobbit holes go, but it was every bit as comfortable as Bag End. And over the years, whenever Frodo was there, Gandalf, Elrond and Galadriel as well as many others made their way to it for the famed hospitality of the hobbit; there were long discussions and tales told that lasted well into the night. But Frodo also spent much time in Lorien, especially in the spring and autumn. Even Este could not completely undo the damage to Frodo's body wrought by the creations of pure evil. But she could reduce his suffering at those times, and Frodo welcomed that relief.
The old hobbit munched his buttered toast slowly, his gaze grown distant. Frodo was made whole in other ways that he never thought possible on that voyage long ago. What Frodo once was, was lost; he understood that and accepted it. That was the way it was for everyone, really; no one was left unchanged by their journey on the road. Frodo's path had been extraordinarily black, but he had been given enough help on it to see it through to the end. And then he had been given blessings that he never expected, beginning with Arwen's place on the ship, and Este's nurturing in Lorien, Gandalf's smial, and the company and counsel of many friends and teachers. In the Blessed Realm Frodo had grown into someone quite different from the broken little hobbit who stood at the bow of a ship on another morning. Then word had come that Frodo was to receive two more blessings.
The old hobbit gathered up the dishes and washed them quickly. He left out some pastries and cheese and covered them with a small linen towel, and set out clean plates and cups; he was expecting company later. He went outside and cut fresh flowers and put them in a small vase, then put the vase on the table. There, everything was neat as a pin and fresh and welcoming. It was time to make his way down the path. He put his pipe in his pocket, then wrapped his cloak around him again; the morning was still chilly despite the sun. Looking out over harbor, he saw that the ship was approaching the docks; he had taken longer with breakfast than he thought and would have to hurry now. Oh well, that was just the way it was.
As he made his way to the shore, the old hobbit thought about Frodo's two blessings. Ulmo, the Valar whose creation song for Iluvatar gave rise to the waters, brought news that Samwise Gamgee's beloved wife Rosie had died. Shortly after that Ulmo brought word that Cirdan was again building a great ship to bring Elves across the sea. Frodo's first blessing was that a space on that ship was kept for Sam. Ulmo ensured that the waters were calm, while Manwe, who sang the air into being, provided favorable winds so the voyage was smooth and swift. They knew that Sam did not like anything that required him to be suspended near deep water, and more importantly, Sam was mourning Rosie and needed comfort.
At last the old hobbit stood near the docking ship, but out of the way of the bustling Elves. His eyes still sharp, he scanned the ship, looking for any familiar faces. The wind ruffled his salt-and-pepper hair, still thick after all these years. There! There was a familiar head, although the hair had gone silver and was much thinner than before. Shielding his eyes against the midmorning sun, Frodo raised his arm in greeting. Sam, slightly nauseous despite the best efforts of Ulmo and Manwe, felt his spirits leap at the sight of his beloved friend, and he cried out "Mr. Frodo! Mr. Frodo!" Frodo laughed as Sam nearly bowled over a couple of Elves as he made his way onto the gangway.
Frodo would take Sam to Lorien and wait for him there while Sam took what healing he needed. And after a while, when they were ready, they would avail themselves of the second blessing. For they both had been given the grace to pass from this life at their wills; together they would accept the gift of Iluvatar and leave this world. Frodo raised his face into the sun, grateful for all of Iluvatar's blessings, and most of all for the one who was now racing toward him on the dock.
"In Lorien are (Irmo's) gardens in the land of the Valar, and they are the fairest of all places in the world, filled with many spirits. Este the gentle, healer of hurts and weariness, is his spouse. Grey is her raiment; and rest her gift...From the fountains of Irmo and Este all those who dwell in Valinor draw refreshment; and often the Valar come themselves to Lorien and there find repose and easing of the burden of Arda."