I get only what’s on the list. Gingerale and saltines to settle her stomach, a family sized box of cheerios and a gallon of milk so the kids can make their own breakfast if I’m tied up taking care of my mom. I toss a bunch of easy to make lunch stuff into the cart, things the kids can manage in a pinch. I grab some fruit and almond butter. We just have to make it until dinner.
Our church fills in slots on the calendar to drop off casseroles and soups, crusty bread baked fresh in their ovens and wrapped up still warm. They drop off pizzas and salads and homemade cheesecake. The kids count out and divide the chocolate chip cookies, but the biggest ones end up in their stack. These church women go the extra little bit to make sure there’s something gluten-free for our daughter with celiac disease. Every evening they bring grace to our doorstep in crockpots and aluminum covered foil trays.
We break the bread and I make a plate for my mom; I carry it to her and this is how we heal the body.
We let the body heal us. This is grace. This is communion.
I wheel the cart through to the pharmacy line and when the man calls me up, I give him my mom’s birthday and last name. He types it into his computer and then returns with a handful of orange bottles. He reads off names of painkillers, and names of anti-nausea meds to keep those painkillers down and then he calls for a consult. A white-coated pharmacist picks up each bottle and stares down his nose though his reading glasses.
“She’ll want to take these with some food in her stomach. And she should try to drink a lot of fluids. She shouldn’t drive or make any big decisions; she’ll probably be pretty woozy.”
No chance of that, I think. She broke her back. She won’t be driving for a long time.
I nod dutifully, and he places each of them in a white paper bag and folds the edge over before handing them to me.
I’m not sure how I’ll get fluids into her when she can’t sit upright or roll over without crying out in pain. I wonder how I’ll get her to the bedside commode if she does get all the fluids she needs.
And at the same time, I’m thankful that she hurts because that means she feels. And it could have been so much worse. This is grace. This is mercy.
I wheel the cart towards the checkout and I pass the cellophane wrapped hydrangeas, lavender, and blush water-colored petals like popcorn spilling out. I pass the Gerbera daisies looking playful and exuberant in fuchsia and goldenrod, scarlet and tangerine.
The stocks are drooping a bit, but their scent reminds me of barefoot summers in my mom’s garden. I can taste the cherry tomatoes and the burst of juice when I’d pick them from the vine. I think of my children like drunk little men, weaving through the bean vines popping their pods between their fingers and shooting peas into their mouths.
I begin to tear up when I think of the compost bin that fell on her and crushed her back. I think of the soil, as rich and black as coffee, and the smudge of dirt across her palm that was still there when the ER doctor finally gave her some pain relief and her balled fist unclenched and her face went watery and soft. She looked like a small broken girl on that gurney, dwarfed by the clunky black brace and the oversized hospital gown.
She won’t be able to tend to her garden this year. She won’t be able to bend towards the ground and get her hands dirty. She won’t be able to see why the False Indigo’s leaves are spotty and ragged or stake the dahlias with strands of cut up pantyhose so their giant plate-sized faces don’t crack their stems like a broken spine.
Who will strengthen my mom’s spine when the flowers don’t bloom for her? When I will inevitably kill her houseplants with my zealous watering or absentminded inattention.
Who will tend her garden while I tend to her?
My mom taught me that flowers can be a tonic for a weary or sick soul. It’s a remedy for the undersightedness we’re all prone to, our vast inability to see the small grace invading our urgency to produce and thereby be made worthy. Our inability to see miracles in the mundane. To remember when we were girls and blew dandelion fluff with heaving puffs that carried wishes like we were blowing out candles on our birthday cake. And the seeds were beautiful instead of a weedy nuisance. This is grace. This is noticing.
Flowers demand nothing but to be lovely and adored.
They’ve already done the hard work of being crushed from seed, planted in the deep dark broken earth, split open, and poured out. They’ve sent out roots and weathered the sun and rain and storms, and if they’re then cut and arranged by some magical apothecary, or plucked by the curious hands of a child, or bought in the crinkly plastic dressing at a gift shop, they do their work just by being splendid. This is grace. This is beauty.
I look for peonies in the bunches of market flowers. The flower I love. The flower that’s spoken to me of God’s gentle care when it waited to bud until I was home from the hospital. When it unfurled like the tulle of a ballerina’s skirt. When it promised there would always be beauty too, it’s slender neck bending over the lip of my bedside vase. And I had the hubris to believe that God might have made the peony just for me, just for that moment, just so I would be reminded that we often see what we look for, even when we’re in pain.
There are no peonies today.
I drive home with the groceries but no flowers. I pull into our driveway and as I’m unloading groceries from the car, I see the first flash of yellow. The daffodils and lilies bloomed while I was busy with necessary things. They bow and wave in the spring breeze, and I pull out my phone and snap a picture for my mom. I carry it to her.
We have much to learn from flowers. They don’t toil or spin and how God cares for them.
Sometimes when we’re looking for miracles, what we’re missing is a thousand tiny seeds, carried on the wind like weeds. This is grace.
Joanna @ Modern Ruth Project says
I LOVE this so much!!!!!! Flowers, fresh flowers are my favorite. And…I am SO sorry about your mom! Praying for all of you right now!
Thank you. Fresh flowers are such a gift, aren’t they? I love them so much.
Bev @ Walking Well With God says
As I read this, I am looking out at my peonies that just today are bursting into bloom. I will cut some and bring them inside because their fragrant aroma is like the fragrant offering of Christ’s blood that is poured out on us in the form of grace. What a beautiful gift this morning – to read your words and gaze out on my peonies. God’s timing is impeccable!! Praying for you and your mom…
Yes, trusting in God’s timing for things today and watching the flowers bloom while I wait. Thank you for your prayers and encouragement Bev, what a blessing you are in this space.
Michele Morin says
Beautiful grace coming out of hardscrabble days. Praying for you, Alia.
Thank you Michele. Sometimes I wonder if there’s even any other kind of day besides hardscrabble. Maybe they’re all tinged with some kind of loneliness and exhaustion and longing for home that’s here and not yet, and even still God is more present than ever when we’re just plain worn out.
Alia, I praise the Lord for His beautiful grace coming out of this hard place in your life, out of your beautiful words. It is a much needed reminder to seek Him and His love notes in every moment of our days. May He lift your mom and you and your family up into His tender arms today, in all the love bloomed in His creation to His gentle whispers to your hearts. Keeping you in prayer.
All is grace. Thank you for your prayers.
I’m so sorry to hear about your Mom Alia Joy. My prayers are with her ( and you) that she has a full and speedy recovery. You truly are a gift and a blessing.
Have a blessed day,
Thank you! She’s got 6 more weeks and then physical therapy but she’s been flooded with flowers so that helps. 😉
Mary Haynie says
Love this post. Thank you.
Thank you and thanks for reading.
Joanne Peterson says
Alia Joy, so like Jesus to show you so you are able to see He is still involved, and active…..giving you and your mom the flowers to to show His love for you both. Not as expected, but in your own yard no less. The congregation loving you as a family, and remembering your daughter special so she can eat and enjoy. Even the pain, showing hope. What a tapestry of grace.
I can’t imagine having a broken back, and then the care taking involved for a broken back. I will remember you and your mom, and your family. Blessings, Joanne
Involved and active. Yes, that’s it. Sometimes it’s easy to think God’s stepped out for a bit or turned His back. How we need the reminders somedays that God is still good and present. There’s grace here too when we look for it. And some days it comes and finds us. Thank you for your encouragement, Joanne.
Julie Watts says
Beautiful words. Love, to watch flowers bloom. Forgot your Mom hurt her back. So out of the loop. So sorry. I would like to come visit..
Flowers are such a gift to us. It’s ok, we’re always out of the loop as well. It’s been hectic and crazy around here so I haven’t been in touch with anyone much.
Grace Cho says
Flowers have always seemed magical and whimsical to me, and they must really be because they’re from Him. Also, Matthew 6- one of my fave verses to repeat to myself when I start to worry. <3
Such a good reminder when I start to freak out. My mom is an amazing gardener and I’ve only recently gotten into it with her. I still kill things but I’m learning. But the flowers that came up just in time, those were a great reminder to me that God holds everything in perfect timing. They are miracle and wonder. They are grace.
Rebecca Jones says
We can learn from flowers and sparrows, I see them all the time sharing a french fry at the fast food place or waiting on crumbs from the grocery store. Maybe, that ‘s why we as “new creatures” are more like butterflies fluttering about. That’s feeling no one wants to experience, I drove my mother to the hospital twice in one day with her nose pouring blood into a towel, I prayed and sang all the way. She recovered quickly. I also know too well about back pain, but I also know healing, I will remember your mother on my prayer board, may she loosed quickly from pain and back in the garden she loves.
I’m glad your mother recovered quickly. We have a ways to go for recovery, but she’s in good spirits and her flowers are blooming in spite of us. Thank you for your prayers, we are thankful for every one.
Jody Ohlsen Collins says
Alia, there are tears rolling down my cheeks as I read this–because of your mother’s pain, yes, but because of the pain I know you have experienced–maybe not bodily but in your spirit and soul, the last year or so…And how God has brought out of that pain these profound and insightful and iconic words adorning this page. Nobody writes like you do…but then again, no one’s been you, either. (Yes, I’m blubbering and making no sense.)
Your phrases are the loveliest bouquet. Ever.
Beth Williams says
Prayers that God will heal your mother. May God bless you and your family for taking care of her during this time. I will continue to pray for you all.
Sometimes when we’re looking for miracles, what we’re missing is a thousand tiny seeds, carried on the wind like weeds. This is grace. It is so easy to look around for big miracles to happen and yet miss out on the minor ones that continue daily. God sending beautiful sunsets and sunrises, food prepared by loving hands, flowers that bloom when least expect. These are His touches of Grace.
Julie Duenas says
Your article is a beautiful example of joy. I am currently doing a women’s study on Philippians and learning how to live a life of joy whatever my circumstance.
Your writing is a beautiful illustration of this joy as well as grace. My prayer is that the Lord will continue to lay His healing hand on your mother and that He will pour grace, strength, and mercy on you each day as you care for her. Lord bless you and your family.
Happy Mother’s Day!