It was the first morning after my cancer diagnosis. It rather intrigues me how we tend to say “my cancer,” as if we are claiming it personally, rather than “the flu” or “a cold,” which we happily share with the universe. Cancer is personal.
It was that first morning, not quite a month ago now. Still early. Quiet. No traffic. Not even any dog-walkers in sight. Nothing to remind me that the world itself had not changed. But my place in it had shifted significantly.
It’s hard to put into words the loneliness of it all. The fear that was freezing my heart.
But still, I was moving through the day as if it were no different, going through the motions of mundane stuff. I was preparing to take my car in for repairs and a very annoying “check engine” light as planned.
Backing slowly out of the driveway, I looked out across the plant bed that runs along the front edge of my yard. The far side of it is made up entirely of bulb plants and dark mulch, with river stones swirling through it in the shape of an open stream bed. The irises were long spent, with sun soaked leaves beginning to fade and fold. But beyond them were gladiolus leaves – still fresh and strong and newly risen. And there, right at the near edge, one large brilliant golden-yellow blossom had burst forth. And it was turned to face me and it filled my eyes with its beauty, my heart with an almost unbearable gratitude. It looked like a bright yellow sun of hope rising purposefully from a bed of dark green promises.
And so I wept rather uncontrollably, all alone in the car, all the way to the repair shop. I had been given this Godly gift from nature, just at that moment, just when I needed it more than I could possibly have known.
Because it was not just the blossom itself that spoke to me that morning … it was the story of blessing and purpose behind it.
I had bought ten gladiolus bulbs sometime in mid-June while visiting (where else) Holland, Michigan. And so I had planted them late – around the beginning of July. Passersby and experienced gardeners alike told me they wouldn’t come up this year – too late in the season for planting. Maybe next year. And I was fine with that. Flower bulbs and saplings are always planted for the future.
But a couple of good rains later, and within two weeks, I had green shoots, growing taller and stronger every day. Only the leaves, of course, to soak up the sun and rain, to store the energy safely away for the flowers that would come next summer. And so they remained throughout the rest of July and August. And so they remained through the surgery I underwent to remove the odd lump in my salivary gland (which was sure to be benign, I believed).
My gladiolus plants stood green and thick and tall with only promises of things to come. Until that morning. The morning after my cancer diagnosis. And one glorious, brilliant, golden blossom burst open just for me. Full of hope and reassurance.
Making it all the more wondrous and full of grace for me is that I did not plant YELLOW gladiolus. I planted RED ones. I picked out, paid for, brought home, planted, and expected RED gladiolus. And yet, here it was … bright yellow. And it was not just that first shining example, they have all now blossomed, all brilliant gold.
And all I can know of my garden now is this: “This is not what I planned, not what I expected … and yet it is breathtakingly beautiful.” And all I can understand of my life right now – especially with my new cancer diagnosis – is this: “This is not what I planned, not what I expected … but it will surely be more beautiful than I can imagine.”
“Life will be brighter than noonday, and darkness will become like morning.
You will be secure, because there is hope…” – Job 11:16-19