What We Leave Behind

I carefully separate the cuttings, teasing the roots apart gently. As I press down the soil around the plant in the pot, I press down my prayers and hopes for healing for a friend whose family has suffered an unimaginable loss.

In the corner stands the Mother plant, lush and glorious, of uncertain age, though certainly many years old. As is my habit, every time a sprig falls I root it for just such a time as this.

She came to our center for radiation, palliative of course, as there was no possibility of cure. We bonded immediately because of a certain shared feistiness, and a love of plants and digging in the dirt. She had once had a magnificent yard though she now could only go and sit and direct her son to do her bidding.

It was spring and all was in bloom, and every day she would bring an offering to lay on the altar of hope that was the nurses desk, in supplication for the gift of time, more time. Usually it was a day lily, she knew all the names and we would stand there and admire and debate the merits of Stella D’oro and Crimean Crimson and Barnabus. And for those few minutes her face would light up and she would forget that she was dying and remember that she was alive, and somehow still a part of that force web that weaves us all together.

Time passed and eventually so did she. One day I was told that her son was at the front desk and wanted to see me. In his hands was a pot with a beautiful Christmas Cactus in it. He told me she had wanted me to have it, a final act of sharing beauty with me.

That was many years ago, and I have faithfully tended it and enjoyed its blooming, in winter and again in spring, the time when I knew her. Eventually I had enough potted to call him back and give him his own plant, a piece of his mother returned to him. He stood there in the waiting room, wordless and moved to tears, and in the silence we remembered her and the beauty she left behind.

I’ve shared pieces of that cactus many times now, usually to someone that has suffered a loss. A reminder that every life, no matter how short, leaves something of itself behind, something beautiful, that says “I was here.”.

I carefully place the plant in a box with a note of explanation, and head out the door, in my hands another slender thread in that great tapestry being continually woven by the hand of something greater than ourselves.

In memory of:

Blaire Margaret Bennet

Child of God, who lived an all too short, but perfect life of love.

One of the many “daughters” of the original plant.

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