I have curled up in the fetal position and cried until my eyes have swollen shut as I battle pneumonia (my body’s plea for a beach and a cocktail). My Mom always managed to take care of me, even if she was sick herself…and now I am an orphan serving up a lung for the holidays. I have felt incredibly sorry for myself, to the point where I almost annoy myself. I have been tormented that she is buried under a foot of snow. I should visit her grave and torture myself in the sun—I also have a severe Vitamin D deficiency from spending the past year in the hospital under unflattering florescent lights—but I don’t have the heart. My heart shattered in the Intensive Care Unit on November 8, and I am desperately trying to pick up the pieces.
When my Mom had her first recurrence of ovarian cancer back in 2004, I felt a sense of urgency to ensure I knew all of her stories, her cherished memories, her favorite things. She loved to tell me that there was one era in particular that she cherished. When I was a little girl, we would set off for a brisk walk down to the neighborhood flower store—red wagon in tow, pigtails flowing in the wind—to buy flowers and seeds to plant in our garden. She knew everything about flowers, birds, and butterflies and wanted me to appreciate nature’s gifts. I learned to see the true beauty that surrounds us every day through my Mother’s eyes.
I asked my Mom, “What is your favorite flower?” as I sat beside her during one of her grueling chemotherapy treatments all those years ago. She told me lilacs. I was satisfied with that answer, but she wasn’t. My Mom sent me a beautiful letter that night that I decided to share at her funeral. After you read her words below, you will peel back one layer of the depth of my grief as you get a glimpse of the unparalleled love we had for each other.
As I sit here in front of my computer when I should be sleeping thoughts of all kinds tumble around in my head. Mostly, what I’m thinking about is flowers.
Someone asks you, “What is your favorite flower?” Now there is a question. You think you know the answer. Lilacs, of course. But you soon realize “subject to change without notice” becomes the new rule.
Long ago I learned that if you want to have a beautiful flower you really must do things to assure that you will. They are delicate, those flowers. You have to prepare the soil by adding just the right mixture of sand. You must make sure the roots get enough drainage and food for continued growth. You water to assure that the flower will grow and thrive in the hot sun. And yet.. the sun’s rays are what the flower grows toward…how ironic.
You start off with a little plant…it’s so tender and so helpless…innocent. You dig just the right size hole and you put it in ever so tenderly. Each day you check on the progress…a new leaf, a little taller. Any disease…you nip it off before it becomes anything serious. If you’ve planted it in just the right sunlight and soil one day you’re going to go out there and that plant is going to have a flower bud. You will look at it every day.. wonder what that flower is going to look like. You will think about it when you’re not looking…and wait. You’re going to imagine all kinds of things about that flower, wish all kinds of things for that flower. No rain storms…lots of sunshine. You are careful to feed it and water it…and you wait.
One morning, when the sun is just right, that flower is going to bloom. You’ll be looking around and all of a sudden it’s a real flower. You can’t imagine how beautiful something can be until you’ve seen it. Your heart is full. You look at this beautiful flower and you know you had something to do with it…but somewhere inside that flower had something to do with it too. You can’t take all the credit but you’re proud, so very proud. You may have helped it grow and bloom…but you didn’t do it all by yourself. That flower had a strong desire to grow and bloom where many other blooms withered on the vine or fell to the ground. You just marvel at that flower…all the things you imagined and now…it’s even more beautiful than any imaginings. The sweetness of it is intoxicating and you are carried away by the scent. You are swept back into a time when it was just a bud…that far recess of your mind…into remembering.
A bee lands on it…and you want it to be pollinated. You want it to flourish. You even love the bee for making your flower even more wonderful. And life is good…and all the waiting was worth it. You are so proud…it’s my flower…and yet…it’s not totally yours, just sometimes.
You’ll never pick that flower. You’ll let the roots grow stronger and want more flowers to bloom. And as you grow older you’ll find strength in the beauty. And as you sit beside it you’ll know what love is.
And now when someone asks me, “What is your favorite flower?” I won’t say lilacs. I’ll say, “It’s you, Jodi.”
May the sun always shine down on you, may you find strength in the roots you’ve planted, and may you always have love in your life.