The Wilted Rose
Aimlessly, I wove in and out of the rows of rose bushes in one of the grandest gardens in our country, the Biltmore Gardens. A dear friend, who breathes flowers, trees, and anything green, had tagged along, as I had invited her to join my family on our afternoon excursion knowing how much it would bring her joy. My hopes had been that the roses would still be in full bloom, but they had begun their seasonal dying off process. Instead of vibrant pinks, yellows, reds, and fiery oranges, fading colors with browning edges and wilting petals surrounded us.
My heart sank with sadness and disappointment at the changing of the season, the dying off of the old to make way for something new. I couldn’t see beyond the present decaying process, but my friend on the other hand almost skipped through the garden enjoying the beauty that still lingered and anticipating the new life on the horizon.
My eyes brimmed with tears that rolled hot down my cheeks. “What’s wrong?” my friend sensitively inquired. “It’s my grandma. I keep thinking of her as I’m walking among these roses. I thought they’d still be in full bloom, but they, like my grandma, are at the end of their life.” I paused and took a deep breath of the lingering fragrance. “I’m also disappointed you didn’t get to see them in their glory.”
I looked away to hide the embarrassment of my flowing tears and red, swollen eyes. My friend swung her arm around my shoulder, comforting me with all the right words about why seasons must change, and how this has to happen for there to be new growth, new life. The seed must fall to the ground and die for new things to spring forth.
Two weeks ago, the seed finally fell. My heart broke, as I threw a single, red rose on my grandma’s coffin awaiting her burial in the freshly dug earth. Even when death was expected, necessary, and even in some sense a relief because she is no longer in pain and with Jesus instead; still it has left a hole in my heart.
I’ve been met with many comments of well meaning friends. Some have offered comfort, and some have added salt in the wound. In our American culture, we simply don’t handle the topic well at all. Most want to ignore the idea of death altogether, as if we will live eternally here. Our spirits do live eternally either in heaven or hell, but our bodies will die, until Jesus makes that right.
Others just want you to move on with it, saying: “What’s done is done.” “She’s in a better place.” “You should be happy for her!” Only a few weep and mourn with you, as Jesus would. Jesus said in the sermon on the mount, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.”Jesus didn’t say don’t mourn.In fact, He put value on it, and gives us hope on the other side of it, “you will be comforted.” In Jewish culture, they even had professional mourners who would come to add to the affect.
Even though it was never God’s original intent that anything or anyone die, He uses it to birth beautiful things, and somehow, He values the mourning process, because He calls us blessed when we have to walk through it.
Faithfully, Papa places people in our lives that we need at the right times. My grandmother was one of those special people. From the time she first cuddled me in her arms, I knew she loved me and was safe in her embrace. As I grew up, it was her house I longed to be at for it was a haven from the life of traumatic chaos I had at home.
Obviously she had her own woundedness to work through, as she had been raised in some extremely abusive environments herself. Many times, she told me stories of her and her half sister hiding under their front porch when her drunken stepmother would come home from the local bar. They were afraid of what she might do to them. She also shared heart warming stories of kind nurses who taught her how to make a bed with hospital corners, as she spent two years in hospitals recovering from a broken arm that left her crippled for the rest of her life.
As I’ve contemplated her influence in my life, I’ve realized that most of the things I now love, came from her in some way. My love for prayer, writing, painting, and even my professional choice of teaching came from summers I’d spent with her talking, dreaming, and creating on her back porch on the side of a mountain. If it weren’t for her intercession over my life, and the safe, loving environment she offered me, I know I’d not be here. She was the first on my mother’s side to accept Christ and thus change the course of generations.
Legacy. She left a legacy with her life of faithful love. Few came to her funeral, an unsung hero, but she did not go unnoticed in the courts of heaven.
Once, I asked Papa about eternity, and He told me that trying to understand eternity was like trying to look at the world through a knothole in a wooden fence. We simply can’t understand all the why’s of life, joy, love, sorrow, suffering, eternity. And yet He takes my hand, inviting me to trust Him to make something beautiful of my sometimes-muddled life. He makes beauty out of this ball of clay.
I wince at the pain of loving, but loving is better than the alternative. Feeling better than numbness. I’ve lived in the numbness for decades, but this time, in this season, I feel. And Jesus sits with me in the waves of emotion that seem to overwhelm me in the moment. This time, I’m not afraid of being sucked under, but I sit with Him in it, like a child with her daddy sitting on the edge of the sandy beach with the waves washing over us.
I look in His eyes of compassion, and I hear Him say, “One day, dear one, you will understand. One day, you will see fully. For now, sit with me here, for blessed are they that mourn, for they will be comforted.” I see a glimmer of delight and joy in His eyes, as He says the words. In it, I don’t understand all His purposes or ways, but here with Him I’ll sit, til it’s time to go play in the waves with Him again.
My mom handed me a plain envelope today with my name scribbled on the outside. My grandma had left me a poem written by her. I leave it with you.
I’ve traveled paths you’ve yet to walk
Learned lessons old and new
And now this wisdom of my life
I’m blessed to leave with you.
Let kindness spread like sunshine
Embrace those who are sad
Respect their dignity; give them joy
And leave them feeling glad.
Forgive those who might hurt you
And though you have your pride
Listen closely to their viewpoint
Try to see the other side.
Walk softly when you’re angry
Try not to take offense
Invoke your sense of humor
Laughter’s power is immense!
Express what you are feeling
Your beliefs you should uphold
Don’t shy away from what is right
Be courageous and be bold
Keep hope right in your pocket
It will guide you day by day
Take it out when it is needed
When it’s near, you’ll find a way
Remember friends and family
Of which you are a precious part
Love deeply and love truly
Give freely from your heart
The world is far from perfect
There’s conflict and there’s strife
But you still can make a difference
By how you live your life.
And so I’m very blessed to know
The wonders you will do
Because you are my granddaughter
And I believe in you.
By Mae Elizabeth Tatum