I’d waited. Indeed, all summer I’d been waiting. Watching. Hoping.
In April, I’d determined that, after having been a bit late in pulling up the past season’s dried remains from the flower garden atop our root cellar, I was not going to plant seeds. Instead, I decided to wait and see what surprises might blossom. My guess was that there’d be plenty of volunteers–black-eyed Susans, morning glories, sunflowers, and yarrow, to name several. And my hope–that there’d be an abundance of zinnias, a favorite, second only to daisies.
But alas, spring turned to summer, and though there were plenty of flowers adorning my ramshackle garden, not a single zinnia. And I was sad, even complaining to my husband only days ago, “I miss them. They’re so pretty and add so much color to bouquets. Next year, I’m planting zinnia seeds.”
Truthfully, this was only a minor disappointment in my life. To be sure, there have been much greater losses of late. Like many, our family, too, has experienced sadness in this season–a family member who recently passed away from Covid, as well as several friends or family members of close friends who passed unexpectedly. As part of a small, somewhat rural community, we’ve endured the ensuing disappointments and heartaches stemming from recent flooding from Tropical Storm Fred which devastated many–washing away homes, belongings, beloved pets and resulting in the loss of half a dozen lives. And what about beyond, on the national and world stage? With others, we’ve watched and been grieved by all that’s happening here and abroad–the ongoing turmoil in politics and the atrocities occurring in Afghanistan, starting with the loss of thirteen brave young men and women who gave their lives heroically protecting others.
It’s all just so heartbreaking–a tough season, to say the least, for us and for many others as well.
Then came the news of my dear friend Zada’s passing just yesterday morning. I knew she’d been declining after having been diagnosed several years ago with a degenerative and debilitating brain disease called Frontotemporal Dementia. Slowly, she lost her ability to speak, something I first recognized the last time we prayed together.
Zada had been a prayer partner for years. Each Thursday, we’d talk on the phone–mostly laughing over one of our pet’s pesky antics or sharing a bit of news regarding a family member. She loved her grandkids, and enjoyed telling me about her and her husband David’s most recent visits to the Atlanta area or Ann Arbor, MI to spend time with family. I’d tell her about a child’s struggle in school or joke about something clumsy I’d done at home. Again, our conversations were mostly made up of laughter–two women giggling like girls–but we’d always end with prayer, our weekly chats concluding with “Amen” just before we’d say, “Goodbye.”
That last time Zada and I talked, just the two of us, over the phone, I’d noticed that she was stuttering quite a bit–as though she couldn’t get her thoughts out as fast as she desired. Perhaps it was merely my discomfort–perceiving that such must make her feel uncomfortable–but we never prayed together again. Maybe she felt this way. Maybe not. Soon after, she and David moved to Georgia to be closer to family, and though Bill and I talked to them a couple times–even Facetimed once or twice–Zada’s and my season for corporate prayer, when we giggled like girls, had ended.
When Bill told me yesterday morning about David’s 1:30 AM text letting us know that Zada was free, dancing in the arms of her Savior, my heart was naturally sad. After all, I will miss my friend, though I’m thankful she’s no longer suffering.
I had plans later that day to meet my mom, sister, and a mutual friend for a picnic at a local park. Although we were supposed to have met last week, our daughter Allie was home sick from school, so we’d rescheduled. Despite heaviness I felt over the loss of Zada, I was grateful for this change, knowing the time together would do my heart good.
Ironically, this friend of ours is still recovering from a loss of her own–her husband Walter having passed away just last April after a 14-year struggle with a rare chronic illness called Erdheim-Chester Disease. We hadn’t been together since, and I imagined much of our conversation would revolve around her answers to our many questions stemming from genuine concern–How are you? and Can you tell us more about Walter–his life and all he meant to you?
Prior to leaving the house, I wanted to pick Kristine some flowers. I’d at first thought it would largely be a bouquet made up of my drying hydrangeas but decided to take a peek and see what might still be blossoming over the root cellar. Walking around the late summer garden, I cut a few sprigs of yarrow as well as a couple black-eyed Susans. As I reached to clip some cosmos, I saw something. Tucked way back, nearly covered over with the dried remains of what had been some sort of weed, were three flowers–two pink and one orange. I almost dropped my shears as I recognized them.
On the very day that Zada died, new life. On the very day that my prayer partner had passed, such a sweet surprise! Such a gift–for a friend who’d also suffered recent loss in the passing of her beloved. I could hardly believe it!
Quickly I clipped them, whispering a prayer of praise to the One who alone receives the credit for the blessings of these blossoms.
Thank you, Father–for the gift of these flowers… these zinnias. It’s almost like they’re from Zada herself!
With tears, I presented the bouquet to my friend–sharing with her the story of the flowers discovered on the first day of Fall. And over the course of the next couple hours, friends giggled like little girls and enjoyed a picnic lunch–no one minding that we talked with mouths full, packing in the precious memories of a man who’s missed. A man named Walter…
Who’s now with Zada…
And with Cousin Marylyn and many others we’re missing during this season of loss.
But for the hope we have in Heaven!
When I returned home, as if God hadn’t already shown off enough, I decided to look up the symbolism of the zinnia in a flower dictionary I often refer to. Imagine my surprise when I read–
Zinnias mean ‘I mourn your absence.’
And while that’s true, I rejoice in my friend’s Home-going, and I’ll think of her each time I see the flowers dancing.
This isn’t “Goodbye,” dear Zada (though clicking the word will take you to a beautiful and very fitting song). It’s just “See you later!”
“You did it: you changed wild lament
into whirling dance;
You ripped off my black mourning band
and decked me with wildflowers.
I’m about to burst with song;
I can’t keep quiet about you.
God, my God,
I can’t thank you enough.”
(Psalm 30:11-12 The Message)
Who has planted seeds in your life? Consider thanking them.
Perhaps you’ve suffered loss. Don’t forget that our loving Lord desires to turn our mourning into joyful dancing!
Thank you, Jesus, for holding close those we’re missing here. If possible, please tell them what they meant to us. Please tell them we miss them. Amen.