Sunday, April 12, 2009
On Life, Death, and Hydrangeas
Confession: I am a plant killer. It’s not malicious. Not even intentional. I just don’t have a green thumb. I’m forgetful. And inconsistent. So while my intentions are benign, that still doesn’t bode well for our plants.
My favorite flowers are blue hydrangeas. Outside our house in Pasadena, we planted pink ones, blue ones and white ones along the east wall. At first they bloomed in abundance, with dramatic clusters of flowers. They lifted my spirits. I was pretty good at watering them and taking care of them, but as the hot August sun burned down, and I neglected to shade them, sometimes forgetting to water, the leaves dried up around the edges, then the petals turned brown. By the end of October’s Santa Ana winds there was nothing left but dry sticks. I was sad. I’d screwed up. Again. I was so disappointed in my inability to keep something I loved alive. (To a lesser degree, not unlike the feeling of failure I felt when our last baby was born...stillborn.)
Over the course of the winter I almost forgot about my dead hydrangeas. But the next February something amazing happened. Buds. Little nubs of leaves growing up and down the branches. A hint at new life. Encouraged, I watered again. Pruned the weakened tops off the branches. Within weeks the branches were covered with bright green serrated leaves. Then came the flowers, my favorite blue blossoms. We lovingly nicknamed the hydrangeas our "Resurrection Plants." Somehow watching these dead, dry sticks come back to life had given us an increased faith in the literal resurrection. We saw it happen. It’s not just possible. It’s a reality.
And seeing my favorite flowers come back to life didn’t just bolster my faith in a physical resurrection. It also helped me understand forgiveness. Despite my own screw-ups, my neglect, my contribution to the demise of these plants, my hydrangeas came back. And continued to come back, year after year. I saw hope and healing. Grace and mercy. Unconditional love.
Every Easter (and at other times too) I like to think of my hydrangeas. I even found the perfect place to grow them here at our new house. They’ve become a beautiful symbol for me...these plants that die...and then come back to life. Even with my best efforts, they’ve suffered at my hand, forgiven me, and continue to resurrect every spring, reminding me of the sacrifice and the promise given to all mankind.