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Life Goes Wide Within Me

My Lenten roses (hellebores) are in full bloom now in what I lovingly call my “anti-depressant garden.” All the flowers in this garden bloom early, usually starting right after Christmas. During the pandemic, my garden has sustained and still sustains me—anything that would grow was a friend, and almost every petunia or geranium, plants usually destined for the compost pile, I brought into my dirt-floor garage to “winter over,” but not, I hoped, to die.

I think the pandemic has brought death into sharp focus for me. Maybe one of the worst parts of the pandemic was knowing that at any time, someone I didn’t think I could live without could die. Not knowing who would get the virus, who would be crippled by it, and who would die was/is hard for me. In the span of one week, two friends lost their husbands, one to cancer, and one to the virus. The former’s cancer was exacerbated by not having the care he would have gotten if the Florida hospitals hadn’t been overridden with COVID patients and COVID healthcare workers—those compromised by the virus.

Death did eventually come for my family. My mom died the first week in February. She didn’t die from the coronavirus, but she died during the pandemic, meaning I went for months without seeing her because her assisted living facility was shut down for visitors. Even when she was in hospice, I couldn’t see her until she was very close to death.

My anti-depressant garden didn’t seem to help when my mom died. Until it did. One day I witnessed new growth in the Lenten roses—and for the first time, white blooms appeared among the purple and pink ones. The cycle of nature is so familiar it can seem ordinary—spring follows winter, the early daffodils come into bloom, then the hyacinth, then the phlox.  Maybe that’s part of the beauty of spring. The Lenten rose in full bloom after a particularly hard winter suddenly became extraordinary. I was in the presence of something I couldn’t name but which brought me to my knees. Something vast spilled into my grief. What was dead in me was touched by life that was “deep and wide” as an old hymn promises.

Maybe we are all in the process of “wintering over” when we lose people and things important to us.  In some ways, we may always be “wintering over” a little bit–suspended between life and death.  I always hope that I will be ready for rebirth after a particularly hard season, whether the season is a metaphorical one like the pandemic, or a literal one, like winter when the flowers have “deadened off.”

One of the gifts of the Easter season is how we are invited to wake up to the new life given through Jesus’s death, just as the earth seems to be awakened in nature. The mystery in Jesus’s resurrection is located firmly in the earth’s resurrection, also a mystery, each spring. In Christianity, as in nature, we never see it happen. Jesus always comes back to life after the doors that he entered are closed.

What happens deep in the soil that we live on is also something we never see. Just as in the empty grave, the new life that begins in the soil becomes felt in the life we live. The earth, like its people, is again “waking up.” Tomorrow I will start to harden the plants I stored in my garage by bringing them outdoors for a few hours at a time. Each one testifies to the abiding Presence connecting us all. When I take a few minutes to weed a small patch of my garden, I think it helps me “harden off” and “wake up” at the same time. Spring, Eastertide, Earth, Rebirth. A little part of me is slowly coming back to life, waking up and feeling the earth go wide within me.

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Dorothy Crockett
Dorothy Crockett
3 months ago

Thank you for expressing the growth that we see/feel in nature as a parallel to how God demonstrates that Love that grows our spirit within us, breathing out, after a long hibernation.