30. The Gift of a Rose

30. The Gift of a Rose

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness

The Gift of a Rose

There’s no other love like the love for a brother. There’s no other love like the love from a brother.

~Terri Guillemets

It was Thanksgiving Day. My sister Sandy arrived with a plate in her hand. “I brought you Thanksgiving dinner. I did not know what else to do.” On the table before me was a blank birth certificate the nurse had given to me that morning. I put off completing it. As I pondered my daughter’s name, I just could not print the name my husband and I had chosen for her: Amber Rose. I suppose it was hope that made me want to reserve the name Amber for the future, just in case. With tears in my eyes, I discussed my dilemma with my sister. I decided to just name her Rose. I filled out the form and Sandy took it to the nurse’s station as she left the hospital.

This was not supposed to happen. I expected my heart to fill with joy when my daughter was born. I had expected her to be born healthy and breathing, just like my two sons. Instead, I had given birth to a full-term stillborn infant. The placenta had separated when I had gone into labor, and my daughter did not have the environment or oxygen needed to survive. I gave birth to her the night before Thanksgiving.

As if naming my daughter was not bad enough, on her next visit to my room the nurse asked if my daughter was going to be buried or cremated. I just looked at her, bewildered. I suppose, still in shock, I assumed the hospital took care of the body. It didn’t seem right to have to have a funeral for a baby who was only alive to me. No one else had seen her but my doctor and the attending nurses. My husband was just as unprepared to deal with the circumstances or make funeral arrangements. The only thing I knew was that cremating her was not an option for us. My father-in-law and my mother stepped in and explored options for funeral services, caskets and cemeteries.

I was discharged from the hospital on Friday. Raymond picked me up, and we retrieved our sons from my mother’s house on the way home. As my father-in-law arranged everything with the funeral home, and my mother dealt with the cemetery, we finalized funeral arrangements for Rose by phone, from the privacy and comfort of our home. All the arrangements were finalized by Friday evening.

Rose would be buried on Monday, three feet below the ground and three feet above where my father’s body was laid to rest at Mountain Grove Cemetery. She would be placed in a small white casket. Family and friends would be able to gather at the gravesite that morning. The funeral director would carry her little white silk-lined casket to her grave and perform the benediction. We were informed there was no charge to the family. The only fee we had to pay was to open her grave.

Flower arrangements and messages began to arrive on Friday. By Sunday afternoon, we had nearly forty flower arrangements in the house. Flowers were everywhere—on the tables, the mantle, the floor, even atop the wood stove. A message came that my brother Dan was thinking about going to the funeral. We had not spoken in some time, because of something I had said or done. Though I had begged for his forgiveness many times, he refused to talk to me. Most of my thoughts were about my mother; I was worried about how she was going to feel seeing my father’s grave opened. My thoughts then wandered to the following weekend when we planned to host a gathering at our home in honor of my in-laws’ fortieth wedding anniversary. I cried quietly at night after my sons and husband went to sleep. I showed few tears in front of anyone; I was more comfortable grieving alone.

Before heading to the cemetery Monday morning, I wandered around the house looking at the flowers and reading the condolences written on each little card. When I entered the living room, I saw a dozen red roses sitting by themselves on the coffee table. I bent down and read the card. It simply said, “Love Dan.” As I smelled the roses, I fought back my tears. I knew at that moment that my brother loved me. Even though we didn’t always see eye to eye, we would always be able to see heart to heart. I knew even if he was not at the funeral service, his heart was with me. As I stood, one rose seemed to stick up a little higher than the other. As I looked at it, I wondered if Dan knew I named my daughter Rose. As I reached out to gently touch the petals, I noticed a drop of water, just like a morning dewdrop. It appeared to be a tear. I started crying and sensed my brother was crying too. I took the rose from the vase and carried it with me to Rose’s graveside service. I placed it on top of her casket as I left the cemetery that morning.

This past year, during a visit to my brother Dan’s house, I shared with him how special those roses were to me at that time. I told him I did not remember a lot of details about that day or even if he was there. He said he was, and he described details that I did not recall as it was mostly a haze to me.

As I pondered writing this story, my brother came to mind for another reason. He is not talking to me again; the disagreement between us has bothered me greatly over the last few months. But I think I have found away to resolve the issue between us. I am going to send him a red rose with a simple card that reads: “Please forgive me. Praying this rose cries too. Love, Deb.”

With that, I am praying he remembers; we do not have to always see eye to eye, but we will always see heart to heart.

~Deborah Lienemann

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