We have an area in the back of our new property that is filled with rose bushes. There aren’t too many of them – maybe five or six, but you can tell that they have been well cared for and pruned throughout the years. The snow is finally gone and we are beginning to see signs of spring so, for the first time, I walked back in the yard and just studied the flower bed. I could just begin to see the start of the green shoots coming from the base of the roses and the stalks were beginning to green up. Not much new growth yet, but it is definitely on the way.
Additionally, the tress are starting to bud and we can hardly wait to see what the spring blossoms will look like. I think that is one of the great things about moving – you get surprised day after day with all the things that are growing right outside your window. I’m sure it will take some time for us to know what is planted throughout the yard, but this past week-end I just stared at those roses, remembering my childhood long ago.
I think the recollections were even stronger because I was showing our daughter, Jill, the image of the house I grew up in. We had been on Google maps and I felt the urge to see what my childhood home looked like these days. And thanks to the advances of science, I was able to see the front of our house on Chicago’s south side. The memories came flooding back. There was the curved front railing that I painted every Memorial Day. And the front steps that Mom and Dad saved so hard to pay for when I was a very young guy. The brown trim that we had is still the color that the present owners use to this day. And there, on the left side of the garage, is the famous iris bed Dad and I worked in so many times.
But there, visible from bird’s eye view, was the area of the yard, behind the apple and cherry trees, that Dad had his beloved rose garden. How proud he was of that. Each week-end, Dad would take his fertilizer or insecticide, his gloves and his tools, and head out to work in the garden. I even remember the first year that Dad bought mulch to put down between the plants. My brother, Doug, and I would periodically be given assignments to weed the rose garden, and we hated that job, but how Dad loved the results. And believe me, it was much easier after the mulch was down than back in the days when we only had dirt between the roses.
And then, when they started to bloom, the backyard was filled with color – some years, we would even get a new rose or two and Dad would tend to them like there was no tomorrow. I even remember how excited he was the day that we planted a “Peace” rose – one that at that time was a little harder to get and certainly more expensive than the regular backyard hybrid tea varieties. And how Mom loved it when Dad would bring in cut flowers.
What’s funny about all this is that my Mom and Dad weren’t very demonstrative people. Yet I can still recall how much Mom loved Dad’s cut flowers from the yard. She would really get excited as he came in from the yard for lunch, bringing her a small bouquet. And the whole neighborhood knew that Dad really was great at growing roses. It was his “thing” when he wasn’t at work. As tough as it was for us at times, Dad always seemed to find solace in his garden.
I recall the first time that Dad had really severe back problems. He was in the rose garden and suddenly, his back gave out and he fell to the ground. Mom rushed out to his side and eventually, in great pain, he made it back to the house. He was on his back for a week, in the middle of our living room floor. It wasn’t the last time he had back issues. Throughout the years, he would have periodic episodes – it became the norm in our house. And then, a decade later, Dad was diagnosed with cancer of the bone marrow – who knows when it first started… He passed away 4 years later.
Never again did I see my father enjoy something as much as tending his roses. It seemed to be the one thing that gave him great comfort – well, at least when he wasn’t watching a baseball game. And whenever he could, Dad would bring his transistor radio out in the yard and sit on the patio, which he and I built, watching his garden grow.
I’ve thought about whether I would like to start a garden this year. I keep putting it off and as I get closer to retirement, I can’t help but think I might return to my “roots” (no pun intended) and once again start my own garden. After all, I’m already 6 years older than my father when he died and I haven’t really planted stuff since our three kids were pretty young. I kind of miss it.
The verse for this evening is from Song of Solomon. We are told, in verse 2:12, “Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.” Ironically, I heard the cooing of the mourning doves this past week-end. How appropriate! My encouragement this evening is that the season of renewed growth is upon us. As tough as the winter was, spring is around the corner. And a time of new growth doesn’t just mean the roses and flowers. That includes our personal growth as well. My prayer is that you will find comfort and “Peace” this spring as you think about all that the Lord has done, and continues to do, in your life. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…