I’ve always been intrigued by these flowers. My daughter calls them her “birthday flowers.” They grow on “her tree” because they are usually at their fullest bloom in the weeks leading up to her birthday.
The flower, if you don’t recognize it, is a Hibiscus mutabilis, a confederate rose, or “cotton rose.” We have a huge tree planted outside of our old home. It was given to me by a lady, a stranger, outside of a restaurant one day. I don’t know her name, perhaps I can ask around and find out. I brought this plant home in a large can, the kind you would find in a school or church kitchen. I planted it, watered it, sheltered it in the winter. At one time, I would cut it back every year, but I stopped. I wanted it to just grow, reach its own potential…decide for itself how big or small it should be. It is now as tall as the house. When we moved, I took a small cutting from it, brought it along to our new home, and took the same care to root and plant that small tree as I did its parent. It now resides next to the shed at our new house and seems to be doing just fine.
We recently visited my parents and I was able to visit the old tree. I say old, it’s actually quite young. It has weathered some storms, a hurricane in fact. It has wilted and drooped in the hottest of summer, barely hung on through some icy days in winter, but is otherwise thriving quite nicely.
Sitting on the front porch, rocking with my grandmother one morning during our visit, she asked about the tree. You see, she can see it from her bedroom window, as we used to live right next door. I think we have had this conversation before.
“Do those flowers change colors? Sometimes when I see them they look white, other times, they are pink. Right now, I see pink ones and white ones.”
It was then, sitting with my grandmother, that I understood the full message of that tree.
Those flowers represent life.
The tiny little buds open early in the morning. Out emerges a silky, white, flower. Fresh, pure, new. Just like a tiny little newborn, ready to be placed in his mother’s arms.
As the day progresses, so do the flowers. Little, by little, they change.
They grow and develop into a new beauty…
Each stage is different but no less beautiful than the one before.
They simply get pinker, and pinker, and pinker…
Until they end up a deep, almost crimson, shriveled flower…
Just before dropping off from the plant…
The same can be said of people. Watching my grandmothers sit and rock, read, hold my young daughters, I see the different stages together in one picture. I can appreciate them. From the round, deep, brown, imploring eyes of a young child to the wrinkling skin, graying hair, and fading vision of eyes filled with memories and wisdom from yesteryears…one picture, a priceless portrait. In those same eyes, I can see the care and love that went into building a family. MY family. The one from which I was born. Sacrifice, prayers, tears, love, love, love is what made me. It’s what led down the blessed path that made my sweet babies. The love of these women. THAT is beautiful. Words cannot explain what it does to my heart to see my children building a connection with them, as I was fortunate enough to have with two of my own great-grandmothers.
Sure, the beauty that I see may not be the “worldly” definition of beautiful. It’s not the beauty that they once saw when they looked into a mirror as they were getting all dolled up, applying lipstick and a dab of perfume, just before heading to a dance and a soda shop with the man of their dreams. Their “light pink” time was one of homemade biscuits, milk bottles delivered to the front door, cloth diapers, and transistor radios. That’s not the same beauty they see now, I am sure, but oh how very beautiful they are. The beauty that I see is a deep passion for all those that come behind them. It’s a legacy of love that they leave in their wake and what could POSSIBLY be more beautiful than that.
Psalm 103:15-16 (NIV)
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.
One day, they will fall from our tree. As they finally reach the point of deepest crimson and fall silently away, from that point on, my heart will break and mourn a loss that will not be able to be filled while I tread on this earth…I will become a little pinker. I will collect what memories I can and move on. They will be remembered for as long as I draw breath. Their stories will be shared for as long as I can speak. That place in my heart, the place they dwell now, will remain forever filled with mere memories until we are able to meet again, hold one another…share our love.
Until that time comes, I will simply enjoy every single moment that I have with them. I’ll make memories, ask questions, listen to the same old stories, and soak up the beautiful pink color as it gets deeper and deeper…