Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
As we sat in our friend Ruth’s garden the other evening the scent of a particular flower wafted over us. Ruth explained that it was the scent of the swathe of Erysimum plants which grew in abundance across the garden. The name by which most people know Erysimum, by the way, is wallflower since it will grow wild on walls or cliffs. Ruth explained how those plants came to be in her garden:
“That year had started badly,” she said, “my husband had been made redundant - just after Christmas, but before the bills came in! Later in the year I had been recalled to hospital as there was ‘an anomaly’ on my scan. That ‘anomaly’ turned out to be an aggressive tumour that required urgent surgery. Then whilst undergoing chemotherapy after surgery I received a phone call from Dad’s neighbour to tell me that Dad had been taken into hospital having fallen at home. In fact he had broken his hip; not a good sign at his advanced age but the operation to replace his hip was successful, for which I was grateful. Despite that he was never to leave hospital as pneumonia took its toll.” She paused for a few moments before going on, “The one thing I regret more than any other was that I was unable to visit him to be with him in his last hours. My immune system was just too weak and the medics advised against it. It really was a very dark time. There seemed no end to our troubles; Jim had not found a job yet and the debts were piling up. Everything was going wrong; I couldn’t take any more! I remember in my floods of tears crying out as Jesus did: ‘My God, My God why have you forsaken me’ Psalm 22:1.
Dad’s house had to be sold, of course but before we put it on the market I gathered some of the wallflower seeds from the garden. They were favourites of his and I wanted to have something by which to remember him. When we got home we scattered the seeds across the garden and, well, you can see the result. Each year they produce clusters of fragrant flowers in eye-catching colours. From early Spring into Summer they provide weeks of massive splashes of colour. Not only do they call to mind the good memories I have of my late father every time I look at them, but they also assure me that ‘The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it’ John 1:5 NIV. That is so very comforting.” With that she bustled off to make some more coffee.
So the wallflowers have a message for our friend Ruth, but it is one from which you and I can take comfort when everything threatens to overwhelm us; darkness cannot prevail against the light that is God.
I am an Authorised Local Preacher in an Anglo Catholic parish church, in the Diocese of Essex UK