I cut a hole in my garden gloves accidentally. It's what happens when you deadhead roses in the dark. Luckily my finger wasn't in the end of the glove when I cut it! I was anxious to trim the roses because, well, because I knew that doing so would bring more roses. But there's more to it than that.
My knowledge of how to care for roses could be fit into a thimble. And why learn? Robert knew everything anyone would want to know about roses. He knew how to fertilize, prune and carefully cultivate them. ‘Our’ roses, for they became mine too after our marriage, did well in the Arizona heat. The 17 plants in front of our home would produce fragrant blossoms every year. The beautiful blossoms made me smile. I love roses, and I love them without knowing a thing about how to grow them.
One Saturday in March, I asked Robert to teach me about roses. He carefully explained each process, I hoped I would remember all that he taught. Then Robert grew tired, so he went inside to rest, and I worked in the backyard garden. I sat at the edge of the garden box, forcing myself to plan the spring garden. I couldn’t concentrate, and soon my mind wandered. Wearily, I finally allowed all the fears that had been swirling about in my mind to assemble into a threatening cloud in my mind.
Robert’s cancer had returned. I knew it, he knew it. We talked of it in distant phrases, but tried to keep hope alive. We had found a new treatment that offered a tiny hope for a cure. Robert taught me to care for the roses that day, but we hoped he would continue be the one to take care of them, as always. I looked up. Dark clouds had gathered overhead, matching my mood. I began to pray. I told the Lord about my sadness while I worked. I wanted to know “What if…?” As I was whining to the Lord, I noticed that some of the tomato plants hadn't dried up and even had blossoms and fruit on them (this is a bit surprising, I'm not an expert gardener by any means), so I decided to leave the tomatoes in and see what would happen. I also noticed that the broccoli had gone to seed and wondered if I should try to glean the seeds and if I did that, would they actually grow? And all of these thoughts were included in my prayer; I decided I really needed God’s help with everything, even the garden.
Then I felt my mind being led, and I recalled the metaphor of The Gardener. I remembered similarities between this garden, pruning, weeding, pulling out the dead and withered plants; and the garden in my heart. That garden was beginning to wither too. What would the Lord do for me, I asked? What would happen to Robert and I? And what about the garden at my feet? I just wanted the garden to grow. I wanted my happy life to grow, too. I wanted everything to grow with a minimal amount of work and pain and struggle. I had no sooner thought or prayed that, when the thought was impressed upon my mind: "Your garden will be successful. Yes, it will require some work from you, but you will find peace and comfort here and when you see the beauty of it, you will be reminded how much I love you." Peace wrapped around my heart like a warm blanket. I recognized this tender mercy. Tears sprung to my eyes as I was reminded of God's great love for me.
I happily went to work, preparing the garden. I pulled the dried dead plants from the earth, and raked the soil so it was smooth and ready for new seed. I moved a reclining chair into the garden area. I hoped I wouldn’t need to retreat to the garden, but I happily prepared so that I could find peace there if I needed it.
A few weeks later the garden had been planted and was doing well. Every time I watered it, I remembered my experience. This remembering was good, because Robert was in the hospital again. He had undergone eleven hours of surgery in the hopes that all of his cancer could be removed. But it was not to be; there was more cancer than could be seen on any scan. Robert was going to die very soon. The surgeon wept as he told me, “He will probably just waste away.” I thought of the dry and withered plants in the garden and cried too. Two days later, while Robert was still recovering, infection tried to invade, and he was taken back to ICU. In the late, late hours of an endless day, I trudged to my car in the hospital parking lot. I needed to return home and sleep. Robert was to undergo yet another procedure very early the next morning. I slept for what seemed like an instant, and awoke in the dim light of dawn, to return to the hospital. I wanted to give Robert a kiss before they wheeled him down the long hallway once again. As I began to back out of our driveway, something unusual caught my eye. Roses. And not just a few roses, there were literally hundreds of them. The rose bed in front of the house had erupted into a fragrant explosion of colorful blooms. I stopped, trying to take it all in, remembering the day we spent together right there in that place. And then the words returned to my mind, "When you see the beauty of it, you will be reminded how much I love you."
And that is how I came to be in the garden after dark, deadheading the roses. The peace I received that morning was wonderful. I wanted, no, I needed more. I understood in a way I never had before, how my garden is my life; there will be withered plants, there will be thorns and noxious weeds, but after all of my meager, pleading and prayerful efforts, there will be roses. Evidence of God’s great love for me.
"Every falling tear is always understood; Life is hard, but God is good."
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