19: An Inexplicable Gift

19: An Inexplicable Gift

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven

An Inexplicable Gift

Reason is our soul’s left hand, Faith her right.

~John Donne

As the minister talked about my sister Laura, she wove images of one of Laura’s favorite flowers, the blue iris, through her comments. She described how Laura brought iris flowers to her when she was in the hospital, of how Laura spoke at her ordination service overlooking an arrangement of blue irises, and how she wore an iris-blue bridesmaid’s dress in Laura’s wedding. I had to smile even in this most solemn service — the memorial service for my sister’s life. The minister eulogizing Laura so eloquently had been one of her best friends since childhood.

I was caught off-guard by the pleasant, yet unexpected, memory of that lovely blue flower. It brought back memories of the border gardens filled with irises at our Aunt Margarete and Uncle Cliff’s home — a place where my sisters and I spent many happy hours. My daughter Lila and I had even enthusiastically planted iris bulbs in our own border garden a few years ago in the fall, eagerly awaiting the reward of beautiful blue blooms in May... to no avail. We chalked it up to a lack of gardening experience and promptly forgot about our lost flowers. Now I made a mental note to try again. A bed of blue irises would be a happy reminder of Laura’s life.

The days that passed after Laura’s memorial service were difficult and we all coped as best as we could. It truly seemed unjust when exactly three weeks later Aunt Margarete also went to heaven. Knowing that she was in her last hours on earth, I told her that I loved her, and asked that she please hold onto our beloved Laura and Uncle Cliff for us when she got to heaven.

Even in her uncommunicative state, her eyebrows raised and she smiled.

When I came home from my final visit with Aunt Margarete, I was saddened and overwhelmed by the loss of two family members in three weeks. I could not make sense of the trials my family and I were experiencing. Reality continues whether we are ready to face the day or not though, so I was up early the next morning to get my daughters off to school.

As we rushed out in the dawn to go to the bus stop, Lila noticed something strange in our yard. Among the fallen brown leaves, and the yellowing fall foliage of our border plants in November, stood one lone beautiful blue iris bud, inexplicably ready to bloom out of season. I have already confessed to my lack of gardening expertise, but I do know that irises are not supposed to bloom in North Georgia in late November! Reverend Teresa’s words came back to me, and I just couldn’t stop smiling over the coincidence of this single, seemingly mixed-up flower. We watched it every day that week, and on the day of Aunt Margarete’s memorial service the blue iris bloomed fully, perfectly, amazingly!

I wrote this story quickly and sent it by e-mail to friends and family as a message of faith and encouragement, accompanied by a photo of the iris. I truly believe the iris was a message from heaven that my loved ones are happy in their eternal home and that I was going to be just fine as well. It was as if God was holding me tight, just as I do my girls, patting my back, comfortingly saying, “Everything is going to be all right. I love you.” I felt an indescribable peace and joy in the faith that God had reached out to me with such a personal, caring and miraculous sign, so meaningful to me.

When my friend Dawn responded to my e-mail with the message to “Hold onto your hat, Susan, this is amazing,” the message became even clearer. Dawn’s research of the iris flower symbolism revealed that it was named for Iris the Greek goddess of the rainbow. In Greek mythology, Iris was the messenger of the gods, acting as the link between heaven and earth!

Purple irises were planted over the graves of women to summon the goddess to guide the dead to heaven. Now my message from heaven was undeniable and even more significant to me!

I do not ascribe to the ancient Greek beliefs of goddesses and gods, but I do believe that God uses everyday events and symbolism for eternal significance! Some may see my single iris bloom in November as a fluke, a rogue botanical specimen, noting that the weather has been strange, explaining it away in many logical ways, a stretch of faith. All I know is that at the time I was slogging through grief, and that I felt joyful comfort in that iris bloom. I am calling it a gift, a message from Heaven. I am so thankful that I was aware enough to hear it.

As a postscript to satisfy the curious, yes, that one iris bloomed again this year, but earlier than the year before. This year, the lone iris bloomed the week of September 27 — what would have been my sister Laura’s fifty-first birthday. Not a coincidence — my message from heaven continues, and so does my joy in having received it!

~Susan L. Ellis

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