Tears watered the soil as I worked my mom’s flowerbed to get it ready for spring. The jonquils had bloomed, yet she was unable to get outside to even watch me clean out her beautiful beds.
She should be out here, I thought. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to cut back the ornamental grass or remove the leaves leftover from fall. It was that working in her flowerbeds was what she loved, and all I could do was take a photo to show her what I had done.
A few weeks later, after the fresh flowers on Mom’s grave had long since faded, I drove up to my parents’ house to see my dad. A striking display of rich pink azaleas greeted me. Scanning the front flowerbeds, my eyes caught the new shoots of ornamental grass, the spreading growth of mums, ready-to-bloom hydrangeas, and emerging hostas.
It was beautiful.
I only in recent years understood the difference between a perennial plant — one that comes up year after year — and an annual plant — one you have to plant each year because it dies in the winter.
Here I was, weeks after Mom’s death, seeing the most gorgeous display of perennial plants and flowers my mom so carefully planted and cultivated when she was living and well. In a way, I feel a part of her when I see the results of her hard labor, continuing on, despite her absence.
And in a way, I know that her flowers are just one example of what she planted in her life here that lives on.
It makes me want to evaluate my life a little more closely. In a metaphorical sense, am I planting perennial plants? When I’m gone — either by death or life changes — will what I’ve planted live on? Or do I spend my life tending to that which will fade in time?
Now, I’m not saying there isn’t a place for annuals, because there is. We should absolutely let ourselves enjoy things that give us delight, even if it is temporary.
A couple of days ago I lugged out a mandevilla plant, a tropical flower I had given my mom each of the last two Mother’s Days. She loved it and created a space in her yard just for it. I decided I would buy another this year to replace last year’s.
Along with that mandevilla, I planted red geraniums, petunias, and salvias, other annual plants my mom enjoyed.
Mom had a perfect mix of perennial and annual flowers in her garden, just as she did in her life.
There is a place for temporary delights in our lives. After all, God created both perennial and annual plants — and within them both lies beauty.
But there must be a balance. If my whole life is spent investing only in what brings fleeting happiness, what will be left when it’s all over?
If Mom’s flowerbed only held beautiful annuals, we wouldn’t be looking at anything of beauty this spring. Instead, we see a gorgeous display of azaleas, mums, Dianthus, and hydrangeas in her flowerbeds. Her investment in the things that last, both in her flower garden and in the way she invested in the work of God, lives on.
As I look at the beautiful works of art in nature this season, I want to look at my life as well. Am I planting what will last after I’m gone?