I was desperate. I had to do something to distract myself from the grief that was beginning to suffocate me. Knowing it was the last time I would ever be near my mom’s physical body, I carefully picked five roses off the perfectly arranged pink, red, and white floral spread displayed on top of her casket. I held my unrefined floral bouquet close to my chest with the loving intention that each rose represented a member of The Lozano Family-my mom, my dad, my brother, my sister and me. At that moment, I felt a jolt of Mom’s maternal pride rush through me, validating her love for our little family of five, a brief distraction from the fact it was time to leave the gravesite. The limo was waiting. I wasn’t ready.
Feeling like a little girl with separation anxiety on her first day of school, I screamed inside my head, I can’t do this. I don’t wanna leave. I want to stay with my mommy! Thankfully, the combination of Mom’s jolt and God’s grace gave me just enough strength to make it through what I thought would be our final goodbye. I stroked my mom’s shiny pewter-toned casket gently, the same way she used to stroke my hair. “I love you so much. Goodbye, Mommy.” I bent over the casket, kissed it one last time and walked away, leaving the stains from my tears and lipstick as a token of my love and sorrow.
By the time I arrived home from the funeral reception, my body and mind felt like they’d been hit by a Mack truck. I just wanted to go to bed and sleep away the pain — both my own and that of everyone around me. Just before turning in for an early night, I heard a sweet, innocent voice coming from the kitchen. It was my five-year-old son, Daniel.
“Don’t forget the roses, Mommy. You’re going to put them in a vase, right?”
Sadly, my well-intended rose gesture from earlier had escaped my memory. As I slowly walked towards the kitchen, I ignored the cabinet where the vases were stored and grabbed a near-empty plastic water bottle that was sitting on the counter.
“Ummm. I think that’s someone’s water bottle,” Daniel sweetly interjected.
Daniel stood by wide-eyed as he watched his mommy, possessed by grief, shove five roses into the small mouth of the water bottle. Somehow, I mustered enough energy to walk my zombie-self towards the sink to fill up the rest of the bottle. I left it on the kitchen counter and went to bed, not knowing that the sweet-smelling parting gift I had given to myself would one day be the catalyst to help with the pain of my adult-onset of separation anxiety.
No matter how hard I tried during the days that followed, I couldn’t break away from my jail cell of heartache as I mourned the loss of both of my parents. They had succumbed to cancer just sixteen months apart.
About two weeks into my orphanhood, I had a smidgen of clarity that enabled me to home in on my little bottle of roses displayed in the middle of the junk mail. Hmmm. That’s interesting. Shouldn’t these roses be dead by now?
Inspecting each one, I subconsciously cheered them on as if they could hear me say, “Hang on just a little bit longer!” Looking back, I realize my preoccupation for the roses was really a representation for the hope I was holding onto — the hope to not wither away. Day after day, I continually became awestruck by their delayed demise.
Another two weeks went by, bringing the one-month anniversary of my mom’s death. My grief hit me so hard that I commemorated the big day alone in my house with action-packed marathon sobbing sessions curled up in my favorite fetal position.
God must have been shocked to see during those intense hours of grief, that I, Marla, his Chatty Patty of a child, had no words for Him. Nothing. Just tears.
Like a loving parent who distracts their crying baby with a toy, I heard HIS tender voice in my head:
“Look at your roses, Marla.” Right then I raised my heavy head up and zeroed in on the water bottle on the counter.
I saw that three of the roses had wilted while the other two, smack dab in the middle, stood strong and vibrant in full bloom. One was bigger than the other, symbolizing to me a momma with her baby, me and my mom. My cries from earlier were hushed by the shocking realization, It’s been a month and these roses are STILL alive?
Energized by my God wink, I immediately called our old neighborhood florist, Mr. Gembler, to ask if he had sprayed some kind of preservative on Mom’s floral arrangement. He denied using anything of the sort, stating all his roses are fresh and usually last a little over a week. I told Mr. Gembler every detail about my roses. I could tell by the way his sentences trailed off that he had a lump in his throat. By the end of our conversation, both of us agreed that I had a special blessing from God sitting on top of my kitchen counter.
One would think that after a discovery like that, I would be in blissville. Well, I was…but only for a few minutes. Out of nowhere, remnants of my grief cast a cloud of shame right over me, and I began to cry.
Oh, that’s just great. I thought to myself. Here I have this little miracle right in front of me, and it’s sitting in an old generic water bottle! I’m so sorry, Lord. I should’ve put these roses in a nice vase where they belong.
Without hesitation, I heard God’s loving response radiate through my heart. Yes, but I was born in a stable. Remember, My glory comes through in humble ways.
Comforted by God’s insightful response, I was overcome with an immediate sense of relief. Thank you, God. I understand. I truly do.
God knew me well. HE knew that, if I’d place the roses in one of my ornate glass vases, I would’ve dismissed my special blessing by focusing more on the wilted roses, throwing them all away prematurely. Just thinking about it makes me cringe.
That day, God gave me the three keys I needed to break free from my jail cell of heartache. Keys in the form of miracle roses, an unexpected dialogue from HE himself, and a heavenly hello from MOM. My healing had just begun…
Stayed tuned for Part 2. More miracles and roses on the way.