85: Just a Rose for Mom and Me

85: Just a Rose for Mom and Me

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles and More

Just a Rose for Mom and Me

Where flowers bloom, so does hope.

~Lady Bird Johnson

In the grand scheme of things, it was always just Mom and me. I was a child of the 1950s and the offspring of one of those typical marriages that seem to define the turbulent times that saw us through wars, assassinations, and unrecognized poverty.

Mom and my biological dad were both factory workers, and they scratched out just enough to pay the fifty-nine-dollar-a-month house payment and keep the utilities on.

I had been a hard birth for Mom. She had me when she was barely sixteen, and medical complications prevented her from having another child.

So, it was always just her, me, and “him.” From the time I was six or seven until the day she finally worked up the courage to escape his drunken rages, I don’t remember a single day when “happy” was a consideration for either of us.

I came in from school one Thursday afternoon. The fight had started before I got home. Just like so many times before, he hit her. I interfered, and then he hit me.

But this time, I hit him back. And when he woke up from my enthusiastic and youthfully energetic right hook, we were already gone — packed and moved.

So, in my junior-high and high school years, it was just Mom and me. We had gone from a three-bedroom house to a tiny apartment. Mom worked two jobs. I lied about my age at fourteen and went to work after school and on weekends at a local amusement park.

But we made it. She eventually remarried, found happiness, and was left a widow way too early. I married my high school sweetheart, we had three kids, and Mom became a doting grandmother who loved my wife as much as I did.

We spent every Sunday with her at the house she had bought in the country, and life was good. Part of that time together was spent tending the roses that grew on her place. They were not prize roses — just natural-growing rosebushes that surrounded her property.

Mom loved roses. She even persuaded me to dig up a few of the scraggly wild rosebushes and transplant them in the small yard in front of our house in town.

One Sunday, two weeks before Christmas, we had spent the day with her at her country house and had eaten dinner. I had fixed yet another series of computer problems for her, and she talked about longing for spring so she could smell her roses.

We left and made the forty-five-minute drive home. As I unlocked the door, the phone was ringing. The voice on the other end was a county deputy who proceeded to tell me that Mom had called 911 within minutes of us leaving.

She was gone, dead at the age of sixty-three from an aneurysm.

The next four days were a blur. I wasn’t grief-stricken or inconsolable. I was just numb. My wife and two of my female cousins basically took care of all the arrangements. I didn’t have a preference on the type of service, the color of the casket or the music they played.

None of it mattered to me.

The one detail that I insisted on was simple. All I asked was that anyone sending a floral tribute please send roses. I didn’t want to see any other kind of flowers at the chapel or the gravesite.

On the day of the services, I finally broke down. Before I left for the chapel, I went into a room by myself, locked the door, cried out all my tears, and asked Mom to send me a sign that everything was going to be okay.

The funeral was amazing. People from all walks of life in all sizes, shapes and colors came out to pay their last respects to this simple, God-fearing woman who had devoted much of her life to caring for and about me.

From the chapel, we went to the cemetery. The small headstone with lyrics from one of the songs my cousins picked for the service — “Angels Among Us” by the country group Alabama — said it all: “Guide us with a light of love…”

The family car took us home. I still felt lost. Confused. Dazed.

And then I saw it.

As I got out of the limo on a cold and wet December day, a scraggly rosebush in the middle of my front yard touched my soul. It was barren of leaves and just looked like a couple of twigs. But it was sporting one rose. One perfect, pink rose glistening in the sun.

And once again, it was just Mom and me.

~Dennis McCaslin

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