A Rose for Mother

A Rose for Mother

From Chicken Soup for the Grieving Soul

A Rose for Mother

With garden resurrections every year, Life after death is not so queer.

Agnes Ryan

Sometimes, when sorrow is deep and the healing balm of time moves too slowly, a grieving heart may look for consolation in something more tangible. When I lost my mother, the comfort I sought depended on the survival of a single rose. Nothing could have prepared me for the answer I received.

My husband and I are avid rose growers. When we joined a local rose society, we became involved in rose competitions where hundreds of blooms of every color and variety are judged for trophies. Growing show roses takes a great deal of time and energy, but the garden was our haven where we gladly retreated into a world of sunshine and beauty.

My mother also loved our yard, and each time she came to our home, she would soon disappear into the garden. I often teased her about wanting to visit with the roses more than with us. She had been struggling with progressive kidney failure, and the garden was where she went to recover after her exhausting dialysis treatments. When she was strong enough, she would roam through the pathways inspecting and clipping her way around the bushes, since it was her self-appointed mission to fill the house with beautiful bouquets. Eventually, when she became too ill to walk through the garden, she was content to sit in the shade surrounded by the flowers and birds. By the end of summer she had grown very frail, and with a heavy heart I knew this would be her last summer in the garden.

An unpredictable complication sent her into a coma, and she suddenly passed away two days before Christmas. After the funeral, I went into the garden hoping to find some comfort in the place she had loved so much. I was searching for a sense of her spirit among the roses, but the garden was in its dormant stage and the barrenness matched the emptiness I felt in my heart.

The following day, some friends from church brought us a new rosebush in her memory. They had selected one called Dainty Bess, a beautiful five-petal rose in cotton-candy pink with dark red stamens and a soft, sweet smell. It would be a lovely reminder of Mother. We planted the rosebush near the place where she had spent so many peaceful hours, and for me the bush became a symbol of her ongoing spirit. I spent the winter months pampering the little plant, urging it to survive and grow strong.

The cold rains finally stopped, and an early spring transformed our yard into a riot of fragrant color. Mother would have loved it, and I missed sharing her joy and enthusiasm for the garden.

Dainty Bess was thriving, covered with bright green leaves and, to our surprise, five long-stemmed buds. When the first delicate bloom opened, my spirits soared for the first time in months.

Our first rose show was five days away, and I became determined to enter a Dainty Bess bloom in memory of my mother’s life, believing this would finally put an end to my grieving. Unusually warm weather had quickly opened three of the five buds, so I cut the last two and placed them in the refrigerator to slow the blooming process. The day before the show, I tried to force them open by putting them in warm water. The first bud refused to open and simply bowed its head, but the last one was perfect. I placed it back in the refrigerator and prayed it would survive. Later that day, a nagging fear of losing the rose sent me out to the garden hoping to find another Dainty Bess hiding among the leaves, but there was no sign of a bud anywhere.

The next morning I opened up the refrigerator to find a bare stem in the vase and five pink petals lying on the shelf! I burst into tears. Losing the rose suddenly brought back all the memories of losing my mother. My husband gave me a comforting hug. “We’ll enter a Dainty Bess at the next show,” he said soothingly. But I could hear the disappointment in his voice.

With heavy hearts, we went into the garden to check the rest of the rosebushes for last-minute blooms before leaving for the show. Barely glancing at the Dainty Bess bush as I walked by, a small splash of color caught my eye. My gasp of surprise brought Rich rushing over to see what was wrong, and together we stared in disbelief at a single long-stemmed, tightly folded bud in the center of the bush. Faith had taught me to believe in miracles, but this was beyond all understanding. Almost afraid to touch it, I finally cut the stem. In stunned silence, we drove to the show.

When we arrived at the exhibit hall, the bud had barely begun to unfurl. I polished the leaves, then cupped my hands over the bloom and gave it several warm puffs of my breath to encourage it to open. I knew the rose would be disqualified if the petals weren’t fully opened by the time it was judged.

After I had done all I could, I stood back and looked at the little rose. Its beauty was breathtaking. Its half-opened petals reaching upward reminded me that I had been blessed with an extraordinary act of compassion. Then I realized that my competitive spirit had momentarily blinded me to the real reason for showing this rose—not for the prize or the glory of winning, but to honor my mother’s life. The rose was perfect just the way it was, and the judge’s opinion was no longer relevant. With a grateful heart and a sense of reverence, I placed the rose on the display table and walked away, free at last from sorrow’s grip.

When the judging was completed, we rushed over to retrieve our special rose. It had disappeared from the table! Seeing our confusion, a friend came over and asked if we had looked on the trophy table. There it was— opened to perfection, draped with a blue ribbon and standing next to a large silver trophy that said “Best Single-Petal Rose in Show.” It was a beautiful and unexpected tribute to my mother.

A few days later, I pressed the rose, hoping to keep it forever as proof that miracles do happen. But when I checked it just one week later, it had disintegrated into a fine powder that scattered into the air as I unfolded the paper around it. The rose had come into my life to console my aching heart, then vanished as mysteriously as it had appeared once its work was done.

Maria E. Sears

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