Weeping may endure for a night, but joy, deep abiding joy cometh in the morning.” Psalm 30:5
We were just about done with the sorting, lifting, packing and throwing away when he asked, “What do you want done with this?” “Just throw it out,” I said and then stopped, reconsidering. It was almost dead, her Christmas cactus, withered beyond repair. My cousin and I had been trying to keep it alive for two years. That’s how long she lived in the retirement community. She withered there too even if she did play Bingo once a week.
Momma used to have such beautiful plants in her house. On her birthday she’d get at least a dozen new ones from those who loved her. “Where did these come from?” I’d ask over and again as we lifted the watering can to the spigot refilling and nourishing the flowers so they’d bloom once more. “Well,” she’d say proudly, “Beth and Rick sent me the peace lilly, John and his family sent the roses and I believe Susan sent the gardenia, look and see what that card says will you Julia?” And the game of watering, naming and praising each gift with gratitude continued for a while. Quite a while.
“What do you think?” he said, treading gingerly. I had already doubled over sobbing, falling to the floor when I found her Christmas sweater. Throwing out old socks is one thing, throwing out Dot Dot’s Christmas sweater is entirely another. “Let us do this,” he said kindly, “we can take care of all this.” “But how could you possibly know what I want to keep and what to throw away?” I queried. And really how can anyone ever be certain? What is for the trash and what is to savor for generations to come? Knowing I didn’t want that sweater in the landfill was pretty easy but the half dead Christmas cactus? Well that was another story. Another story and then please just one more. We promise we’ll go to bed after this one, Momma. Please, pretty please, cross your heart and hope to die.
We don’t say that anymore in our family, “hope to die.” Having lost someone to death puts a little more sting on that old saying. So we just say, “I promise.” I promise I love you, I promise I miss you, I promise I’ll take care of your Christmas cactus, resurrect it and when a patient says “Dr. Burns, put that poor plant outside and let it get some water and sunshine,” I promise I will.
God made a promise to all of us too. She promised that when we were old and withered, drying up and dying, we could shed our skin and live another life without need of such. I believe her promise, don’t you? And if you don’t, just look at the resurrection this withered old cactus found. If a dead plant blooms with such promise, can you imagine the beauty of Momma? Blooming at Christmas, hovering in love and light beside a lowly manger, celebrating rebirth for all.