My mother and I shared a love of flowers. As a child I worked alongside my mother as she tended her gardens. Then when I was ten years old my father cleared a swath of our back yard so that I could have a garden of my own. I practiced my skills on marigolds and straw flowers, and each summer would happily deliver small bouquets to our neighbors (something I still do today).
As my mother aged, she became frail and eventually bed-ridden, unable to do anything for herself. I brought her a bouquet of flowers nearly every time I visited, either fresh from my garden or store-bought. This sweet lady spent her final years in a nursing home where she was known for always having a bouquet of fresh flowers on display. She was proud of the compliments the staff would give her when they noticed a new bouquet. “I guess Lisa visited you again today,” they would remark. And my mother would smile with pride.
Every November for the last 20 years I would buy two amaryllis bulbs—one for my mother’s home and one for mine. And we’d have a friendly competition over whose amaryllis would bloom first and in time for Christmas. My mother’s birthday was on Christmas Day, and this added to the fun of the holiday season. A couple of years my bulb didn’t bloom at all, but my mother’s always bloomed beautifully.
So my mother won the competition every year, even in later years when she was unable to water the plant and I watered it for her. The last amaryllis bulb I bought her this past Christmas out-performed all the others with 13 gorgeous flowers in bloom in time for Christmas and her birthday. As she had every year, my mother again won our competition, hands down.
In late January my mother quietly passed away, with flowers by her bedside and her hand in mine. As her health was declining rapidly in the days before her death, I, along with my husband, children, father, siblings and their families kept a round-the-clock vigil by her bedside. One night when it was my husband’s and my turn to return to our house to shower and sleep for a couple of hours, I noticed that my amaryllis bulb, which had bloomed a month before for Christmas, was sprouting a green stalk and looked like it was preparing to bloom again. In my distracted state of mind, I didn’t pay much attention to it. My husband and I returned to my mother’s bedside to be with her in her final hours.
As we planned my mother’s funeral, I decided to water the amaryllis bulb that had just started growing again despite weeks of dryness. An amaryllis bulb blooms once a year, after which I would always throw it out. Two weeks after my mother’s passing, my amaryllis somehow was in full bloom again–something that had never happened to one of our bulbs before. I was certain it was a sign from my mother.
During her final days I had repeatedly asked her that once she arrived in heaven, to give me a sign that she is at peace. And I asked her to use flowers to tell me.
This spring at the suggestion of a neighbor, I planted my and my mother’s amaryllis bulbs from our last Christmas together in my garden to rest. Apparently if the bulbs rest during the summer in the right conditions, you can bring them inside in the fall, start watering them again, and if you’re lucky they will bloom again in time for Christmas.
My amaryllis bloomed again in July—the same bulb that bloomed at Christmas and in February. In my favorite garden where it was supposed to be resting. My mother is at peace—and so am I.
Lisa Laham is a recruiter at a non-profit human services agency. She lives in NH with her husband, spends many happy hours in her backyard meditation garden, and looks forward to being a cat-mother again in the near future.
Featured image courtesy of Leah Kelley.