91: Harvest of Hope

91: Harvest of Hope

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever!

Harvest of Hope

The love of gardening is a seed that once sown never dies.

~Gertrude Jekyll

The temperature was only in the low seventies that late September evening, and she was cold. I covered her small frame with a blanket as she sat there in the old wooden porch swing. My voice caught in my throat as I asked her if she was comfortable. I thought how strange it was for me to fuss over her this way and how my eighty-six-year-old mother had now become the mothered.

True to form, she said she was okay, but I knew that I wasn’t okay. I knew we were starting to say goodbye to each other.

Earlier that day she had asked me to gather the seedpods from her flower garden. I brought them to her. As she reached to take them from me, I noticed how frail and small her hands were. How had I not noticed how frail they had become? When had her skin become so thin that I could almost see through it?

As she placed the pods on the blanket covering her lap, I thought how surreal it was for the two of us to be sitting here together on this glorious early autumn evening, visiting as we always did and talking as if nothing had changed. But everything had changed last week when the doctor had sat with us in that tiny room and discussed the test results — results that told us that she wouldn’t be with us much longer.

Part of me wanted to scream out loud at how cruel and unfair life was. Part of me wanted to run away, to outrun the pain. But I couldn’t. So I just sat there quietly beside her as she patiently began to separate the seeds from the pods. Small hands so like my own, worked deftly to finish her task, just as they had done with every task set before her.

I heard her explain how to store the seeds, and I remember her telling me how to wrap them up and when to take them out again for planting. She explained the depth to sow them and how far apart to place them from each other. We sat there together as the last rays of sun went over the hill, separating and wrapping and placing the round black seeds in a small cardboard box.

When we had finished our task, she looked lovingly at me with those soft brown eyes of hers that I knew so well. Her gaze never left mine as she purposefully passed the box to me for safekeeping.

I knew it was more than flower seeds she was giving me. She was trying to give me hope. Hope that there would again be flowers for me to enjoy, hope that after the winter of hurt that was coming soon, there would again be sun in my life. In preparing for a harvest that she knew she would never see, my mother was giving me one final gift — the lesson that life would go on and that after the rain, flowers of joy would bloom again in my world.

The cold winds of October blew harshly and the ground was cold the day we placed her there and said our goodbyes. Part of my heart went with her when she left. But the seeds remained. Tucked away where she had placed them, they remained through that first hard winter without her. Through the first Thanksgiving when her chair remained empty at our table. Through the first Christmas we didn’t hear her sweet voice singing carols. Through the welcoming of the first new year I had ever known without her. Still the seeds remained in that cardboard box, wrapped tightly in a mother’s love with her promise of a harvest of hope.

The robins appeared right on schedule to flit about in the warm spring sun. As if mocking the sadness within me, the earth around me once more exploded with possibility. I sat alone in her swing on a day when the soft sun couldn’t quite cut the slight bite in the air. It was as if I heard her sweet voice in the breeze saying, “It’s time. The hard hurt of winter is over and now, it’s time. Time to plant the seeds for tomorrow’s harvest.” My hands shook a bit as I drew the cardboard box from its place in her bureau. How strange to think that her hands had touched it last. How bittersweet to think of the day that we had packed it away. But with all the strength, dignity and grace that I had learned from her, I knew what I must do.

And so I dug furrows in the rich brown earth. And I heard her voice gently reminding me how wide to dig the rows and how deep to plant the seeds. And so plant them I did, and they grew strong and beautiful like her, bringing me a harvest of hope… one last gift from my mother.

~Geneva France Coleman

More stories from our partners