Written by Helen Rose
For the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tallahassee’s Flower Communion
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first day they met, Rebecca and Rachel were inseparable. As children, they were the best of friends, and as they got older, they fell in love. They were married in the mountains in the springtime, surrounded by trees and singing birds, and the most beautiful wildflowers.
Rebecca and Rachel (and their dog, Rascal) spent many years going on adventures. They wanted to see all the wonders of the world. They visited the pyramids in Egypt, and the Taj Mahal in India. They saw giraffes and elephants in Africa, and they went swimming in the Dead Sea. They made friends everywhere they went and were glad to keep in touch with the people they met during their travels.
Every year during the holidays, they would spend a whole weekend drinking hot chocolate and addressing holiday cards to their hundreds of far away friends. They always got some cards back in return and were glad to put them up around their home, surrounding themselves with well wishes from around the world. It was one of their favorite traditions.
Year after year, Rebecca and Rachel went on more adventures and returned home with a few more names to add to their list of friends. As the years went on, they began to spend a little more time at home and a little less going new places. They still traveled but found themselves more and more tired every time they returned home.
They both took up some new hobbies. Rachel began gardening and Rebecca, who didn’t have much of a green thumb, took to reading books about the places she still wished to visit. Rebecca would sit in the garden and read while Rachel pruned and weeded, and they would plan their next adventure and talk about the little creatures that came to visit and what plants were beginning to grow. Rebecca loved the flowers best of all, especially for the diversity of types and colors. They reminded her of the wildflowers from their wedding day.
One day, Rebecca wasn’t feeling well. She decided to rest inside instead of joining Rachel in the garden. Rachel was worried about her and encouraged her to go to the doctor. The doctor ran some tests, which took a couple of weeks, and brought Rachel and Rebecca back to hear the results. By then, Rebecca was still feeling unwell, and her eyesight was starting to become blurry.
The doctor told them that Rebecca’s eyesight would continue to get worse and soon, she would be completely blind. When they heard the news, Rachel thought of all the adventures they had planned to go on, and how different those adventures would be now. But Rebecca wasn’t thinking about traveling – she was thinking about the beautiful flowers in in Rachel’s garden and how soon, she wouldn’t be able to see them anymore.
Rachel and Rebecca spent the next several weeks working in the garden together. They spoke about the wonderful food they would eat the next time they went to Mexico, and the beautiful music they would hear in Prague. Rachel tried to keep Rebecca’s spirits up, but Rebecca was sad and scared. They tried to settle into their new sense of normal, which didn’t feel normal at all.
When it was time to write their holiday cards that year, Rebecca could barely see anymore. She was sad that she couldn’t help, and she sat with Rachel while they drank hot chocolate and Rachel addressed the cards. Every time Rachel picked up a new envelope, she would tell Rebecca who it was for.
“This one is for Holly in Amsterdam,” Rachel said.
“Do you remember when we saw the tulips in Amsterdam?” Rebecca responded with a sigh. “They were so beautiful.”
Suddenly, Rachel had an idea.
She took Holly’s card out of the envelope and scribbled a note on the bottom.
“If you are willing and able,” she wrote, “can you please send us some tulip bulbs?”
Rachel spent the next several days adding notes to holiday cards for their friends around the world.
A few weeks later, something amazing happened.
One Monday morning, a package arrived. It was full of tulip bulbs from Holly in Amsterdam.
On Tuesday, it was Royal Bluebell seeds from Paige in Australia.
On Wednesday, Easter Lilies from Layne in Ireland.
And the packages just kept coming.
The bulbs went in the ground immediately and in early Spring, Rachel began planting seeds.
Rebecca had completely stopped coming to the garden. She spent most of her time curled up on the couch with Rascal, listening to music or books. She could not see at all anymore, but she began to find her other senses growing stronger. She could hear everything that was happening around her, and even familiar flavors began to become more vibrant and strong.
One day in early Summer, Rebecca smelled something. It reminded her of the mountains, and of memories from a long time ago. Carefully, she followed the scent all the way out to the garden, where she found Rachel. She hadn’t been in the garden in a long time.
“What are you planting?” Rebecca asked.
“Well, this one is English Lavender from Mary in London. And right next to it is some Lemon Balm from Edward in Spain.”
“What are you talking about?”
“And over that way are some moss phlox that came from Kim in Japan, and…”
A smile spread across Rebecca’s face. It was the first time she had really smiled since she started losing her eyesight.
“I know you can’t see them,” Rachel said, “but I figured if I planted enough, you’d be able to smell them. I asked all our friends to send something from their countries, and they did. There are hundreds of flowers here from you, and so many different ones that you’ll probably have flowers all year long.”
Though Rebecca couldn’t see, she could feel the incredible love that surrounded her. The love of her friends, who sent the flowers, and the love of her wife, who spent months planting and tending to them. Her smile only grew.
“They’re beautiful,” she said, and she knew she didn’t have to see them with her eyes to know that was true.
This story was inspired by a story I read about a couple, Mr. and Mrs. Kuroki, who live in Japan. They’ve been married for 35 years, and several years ago, Mrs. Kuroki lost her eyesight to diabetes. She became very depressed and withdrawn and her husband became determined to make her smile again. He spent over two years planting thousands of moss phlox flowers for her, and it helped her tremendously. Now, she smiles every day. Mr. Kuroki chose those flowers because they have a sweet, strong scent, saying it reminded him that beauty, like love, isn’t always something we can see.