Each spring I wait to see what plants will come up after a long, hard Maine winter. Only the hardiest of bulbs can withstand the weeks of frozen landscape we endure (I do like winter, but find the five months we enjoy up here a little long).
Faithfully, these scilla push through the cold spring mud to fill the world with their beauty and fragrance every year. These scilla originally came from my childhood home, where I dug them up before my parents sold their house decades ago. They have followed me from new home to new home, until now they annually remind me of the permanence of some things over time and distance.
As they arrive, sweet, dancing bells, I am flooded with memories of my mom tending them, and bringing them in for the floral arrangements she set on our table. Her garden was her joy, the escape from worries about money and the other stresses of raising a family. We could occasionally join her in the rock garden my father made for her, but I usually pulled up something precious in my attempt to weed, and would eventually be encouraged to go play instead.
I think of her as I have also tried to balance the real worries of living in this world with the need to embrace beauty and hope in the midst of all circumstances. As I've held my sister and my mother in my arms to try to make their last days as easy as possible, I have dug deep into those lessons about tending a garden, a bed of beauty and hope that sometimes lies beneath a cold and hard ground of fear and sadness. Like those scilla arriving each spring, I believe in the cycle of life after death. I live in the hope that, like those flowers, I will again be present in God's light with my loved ones in a garden of love.
We are again facing a severe illness in my family. I'm digging deep again, holding onto the lessons of past crises. Not knowing the outcome, I can just tend the garden I have been given. It helps to know that beauty surrounds us, if we look up and see it. I'm trying to weed out the fear and let the sadness flow like water, nurturing kindness instead of reactive anger. I think that will lead to a harvest of joy, rather than bitterness. But for now, all I can do is dig deep. And breathe in the fragrance of sweet memories of lessons learned a long time ago in my mother's garden.