A week ago I received the most beautiful bouquet of flowers I have ever seen. It was my 36th birthday.
I had been dreading my birthday for months, worried that this year would pass without mark. 2020 has been a year of joy and despair making me fear that the day would mark the failure I felt to achieve my goals. I worried that the day would point to an unremarkable life and, a likely unremarkable future. I have so much evidence to the contrary, so much evidence that I have made a beautiful mark, but still the fear lingered in the pit of my stomach. Would I be alone, would I be lonely on the one day a year that is supposed to be mine?
The night before, I went to bed early not wanting to see the day begin. I woke up to a day of hundreds of messages of love and support, calls of well-wishes and celebration, a cake from my mom, cuddles and pictures from my niece and nephew, all ending with a laughter filled Zoom game night. And in the middle of that beautiful day I received a call that flowers had been delivered to my home. When I arrived I was amazed at the beauty of the bouquet.
Pink roses, sweet peas, carnations, hydrangeas that smelled of summer and hope. In the bouquet a simple card that read, "Happy Birthday from Mommy and Daddy. We love you sooooo much." It’s the most beautiful bouquet I have ever received. The only bouquet that made me simultaneously happy and sad. It contained so much vibrance that could not last, scent that would fade, blossoms that would die.
I kept it close, whenever I was home I took time to smell the flowers and try to trap the memory of the roses deep in my senses. I knew the futility of such an exercise but I let fleeting hope draw me deeper into those still moments.
Flowers so often are proxies for emotion; love, joy, anger, guilt, grief. My birthday flowers were a proxy for the love, touch and physical presence that I miss so deeply this year. No flower could ever fill that void but such a gift is a reminder of what really matters in life.
Today I realized that my perfect, beautiful, roses were dying, wilting on the stem, heads drooping. The scent becoming more and more faint. Before this year, I used to object to bouquets saying, "Flowers are wasteful, they die so quickly. What is the point?" Now I find myself tearing over these wilting flowers - these were different, this year has been different. I wonder now if wilting in a vase so much worse than dying on a vine? When given in love, cherished and fawned over, the life of a flower isn't wasted, it is enhanced.
Are we not all flowers? We seed in mother's womb and grow into buds on a vine. Those lucky enough, bloom with opportunities to bring life to ideas and beings of our own. Hopefully, we get the opportunity to be a part of a dazzling garden with variety and color, to be kissed by honey bees, to be warmed by the sun and cooled by the rain - to be nourished into full bloom. We never know when withering will occur but it will.
I suppose at the end, whenever that is, I want to be part of an intricate bouquet that represents the rich tapestry of this beautiful life I have lived - that I will live. At the end I know someone will try to remember the sweet scent of moments with me, because I already know there are extraordinary moments that I hold close.
I am sad that my flowers are dying but I know cutting them was not a waste. They are one more bloom in the bouquet of memories living on in me.
Written In Dedication to Rev David Belton
- you are a light that lives in us, in me. a bloom in my bouquet -
April 21, 1954 - December 22, 2020