One of the pictures in my study is a photograph of two red Gerbera daisies. One is in full bloom and the other is just beginning to open. It looks like a sunshiny day. The flower’s foliage is lush and green. Occasionally someone will pick up the picture and ask, “Why do you have a picture of these two flowers on your desk?” And I answer their question with a story.
It goes back more than twenty five years. Coming home from a two-week trip I began to catch up on the news with my wife. She had traveled south while I had studied up north. On the way home she had stopped by my mother’s house in Georgia and learned she was in the hospital. In her eighties, Mother’s trips to the hospital were coming closer together.
“Oh by the way,” my wife said, “your mother sent you some flowers. Gerber daisies, she called them. Just before she got sick she told me that she went to a nursery, found two plants at a good price. She instructed me to go by her house when I left the hospital, get the daisies, be careful with them, and bring them home to you.” We were moving soon and so she told my wife, “Don’t plant them now. Take the plants to Memphis and plant them when you move.”
When I talked to my mother on the telephone she wanted to know about the daisies. “Give them plenty of water, keep them out of the full sun until they’re planted and take them with you to Memphis. Now don’t put them in that moving van—you put them in your car.”That was our last conversation. She died less than a week later.
I left the plants with a neighbor while we went to her funeral in Georgia. I wanted to make sure they were all right. And so we stood with family and friends in the cemetery on a hot July afternoon and said our sad goodbyes.
We moved weeks later to Tennessee. One of the last things I did as we closed up our house was to put the daisies in my car. A week later on a hot Sunday morning I planted my daisy plants in the Tennessee soil in our side yard. Grief came surging back. As I mulched the flowers I remember praying, “Dear God, let them live. Let them live.” It was late August.
My birthday fell on a Saturday in October that year. As I went to get the paper that morning I was dumbfounded by what I saw. One of the daisies had the prettiest red bloom and another bud was barely opening. I don’t know much about this flower except October is very late for a Gerbera daisy to bloom. I charged into the house and told my wife, “You won’t believe what’s outside. One of mother’s daisies is blooming on my birthday!”
It was her final gift the last of many others she had given me through the years. Even after her death, her gift came alive. The long arm of her love touches me still.
Frost came early that year. The flowers wilted. I hoped the daisies would live through the winter—but Gerbera daisies don’t usually do that. The next spring the flowers never came up. But this I know—that daisy bloomed on my birthday. The flowers didn’t come back—but they did their work in a hard time. And even after all these years, on Mother’s Day especially I look at that picture and smile. Grace, stubborn grace, comes in the strangest of ways. And so I told my friend this is why I keep this picture of that Gerbera daisy on my desk.(I've told this story many times in the last few years. It is my favorite Mother's Day story. I shared this piece on my blog several years ago--many of you may not have seen it. Here it is a second time. My mother was Ruth Kelley Lovette.)