73: Amanda’s Jonquils

73: Amanda’s Jonquils

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Messages from Heaven

Amanda’s Jonquils

Every flower is a soul blossoming in nature.

~Gerard de Nerval

I do not have a green thumb, nor do I possess so much as a green pinkie. In fact, plants and flowers seem to have an aversion to me. Despite all my earnest endeavors, most of my plants and flowers exhibit a varying array of colors, none of which is normal. One plant on my brass flower stand is now mostly yellow. Another plant is a lovely green, except for the tip of every single leaf, which is black. I water too often, I am told, or too much, others say; I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong, but I seem to keep doing it.

The truth is, my plant collection is not one of my own choosing. All of my plants were gifts during a time of traumatic grief in my family. I still have one living from the time we lost my father-in-law to cancer, another from the year a stroke took my mother-in-law, three from the loss of my nineteen-year-old daughter eight years ago, and one from the death of my sister-in-law two years later. My plants have truly been watered with tears.

There was a time that I attempted to plant a flowerbed in my front yard. When my two girls were small, I ordered beautiful varieties of tulips and planted them each fall. Then each spring, I would eagerly watch for the first signs of growth. Each tulip that pushed its way through was a victory for me. However, I soon found that the neighborhood dogs and cats seemed to enjoy destroying my flowers as much as I enjoyed watching them grow. Some animal liked to eat the tops off my tulips; another liked to pull them up by the roots.

About nine or ten years ago, I quit planting the bulbs in the fall, and I gratefully turned the flower gardening over to my husband. He plants mums, which do not need several months of dormancy, and which the neighborhood cats and dogs do not find as much fun to destroy.

Eight years ago, my nineteen-year-old daughter was killed in a blinding rainstorm. On a hot August afternoon, she hit a patch of high water, hydroplaned, and spun around into the path of an oncoming car. The state trooper said she was killed instantly. My family was inundated with grief and despair, neighbors and friends, food and plants. In the months that followed, my thoughts turned to creating a legacy for Amanda. She died too young to have married; no children would carry on her genes. How could we ensure that her memory lived on?

One of our first efforts was the establishment of a perpetual scholarship fund, because Amanda had been an outstanding student in high school and during her one year at college. We also assisted the Wesley Foundation at East Carolina University in constructing a prayer garden in her memory. Her boyfriend named a star for her and brought us the star chart. Her best friends and their families built and maintain a cross at the accident site. Her Girl Scout troop planted a tree; her high school friends dedicated library furnishings to her — so many people understood and aided us in our attempts to create a legacy for Amanda.

Amanda’s birthday is in April, and that first April after the accident we decided that we would place flowers in church every year in honor of her birthday. After church, we carried them to her grave. When we returned home, however, we were shocked to see a group of cream jonquils with yellow centers in my flowerbed, right outside Amanda’s bedroom window. We had never planted this particular type of jonquil, nor would we have ever planted them in just one spot. Our flowers were always evenly spaced across the front of the house. We looked at them in awe but we could not explain their appearance.

The following April, the jonquils once again made their magic appearance, blooming beautifully outside Amanda’s window. Every year now, for eight years, the jonquils have appeared. They always bloom right before her birthday, always in the same spot, without any assistance on our part. We recognize them as what they truly are — Amanda’s birthday present to us — and we simply accept them with gratitude and wonder. And amazingly, the neighborhood dogs and cats leave them alone. And so do I.

~Kim Seeley

More stories from our partners