The Forget Me Not’s were dead.
Arriving home from a weekend away, I discovered my meagre assembly of potted plants withering and wilted on the balcony. With the faint smell of basil still lingering in the air, I looked at the shriveled leaves and dried dirt with aggravation.
This had been my first attempt at livening up our micro-sized balcony with a bit of greenery. It was our third summer without a backyard vegetable patch and by late Spring my fingers had begun itching to get back into the dirt. But despite my best intentions for fresh veggies, my forgetful “mommy brain” combined with an intense summer heat wave had not been doing the plants any favours.
Things had started out well enough. Burrowed deep in their clay plots, the herbs flourished and my overcrowded pot of lettuce began growing tall. But the real star was going to be my Forget Me Nots: a splash of colour against an otherwise unspectacular balcony.
As I dug the seeds down into the soil, my fingernails stained with dirt, I thought about Landon. With the seed packet clenched tightly in my hand, my heart whispered, “Don’t worry little one, mama’s not forgetting you.”
This little clay pot held more than just flower seeds, all the excess love that could never be spent caring for Landon had been poured out over this plant. While I could never physically tend to my son, I could take care of these flowers in his memory.
And yet, a month later, here I was squinting out the window at my now pathetic looking plants. My sporadic watering schedule and mini-vacation had brought my vegetation dreams to an end. And while a couple days of attentive care brought most of my plants back to full health, Landon’s blue flowers remained lifeless.
There’s some special sort of irony in forgetting to water your “Forget Me Nots,” and this dead plant hit me hard with mommy guilt.
Why had my aphid infested, over crowded pot of lettuce survived and Landon’s delicate flowers wilted? The plant’s crunchy brown leaves had me near tears. I felt as if I’d failed my son. I hadn’t just forgotten the stupid plant, I’d forgotten him. I was a failure at gardening and obviously, a failure at loving Landon in one of the few ways that I still could.
And yet, when I took a closer look at the mass of dried leaves, I began to realize that this flower wasn’t really about Landon at all. It was about me.
This drooping plant bore a strange resemblance to one spiritually dry mama. And as I held the clay pot in my hand, wondering whether or not to just chuck it out, I heard the voice of one whom I had all too long been neglecting.
I had allowed my grief to slowly permeate my walk of faith. The numbness that creeps in with mourning had begun to ooze its way across my devotional life, bringing with it a sense of spiritual listlessness. I had fallen from the mountain peak to the valley floor and the sudden drop had left me feeling too exhausted to try climbing back up again.
Motherhood was tiring enough without the grief. All my energy was focused elsewhere, and when I had a few moments to myself, I didn’t want to have to think about anything – let alone try to study scripture. And so, with the excuse of “busyness” masking my thirst, I didn’t see my leaves begin to dry and curl, my stem wither and fall.
“Oh Father, Forget Me Not.”
In the intensity of grief, I had forgotten to care for myself; forgotten to tend to my relationship with the Heavenly Father. But thankfully, He didn’t forget about me. Even in my weakness, He is ever faithful.
After a week of watering my dead plant, I watched new life gently push it’s way back up through the soil. Clipping away the dead leaves to allow the plant to grow strong again, I felt the shearing movements of the scissors echo the gentle pruning hands of the Father.
This dry season has felt long. And yet, in some ways, it’s a very natural part of our relationship with the Creator. It’s as we crawl through the desert, skin burning against hot sand, that we feel the loss of water most acutely. This is where we learn what it means to truly thirst after the Father; this is where the pruning takes place, and where we have the most opportunity to grow.
Grief affects different areas of our lives uniquely. It’s difficult to keep up with the demands that such pain makes on us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. But as we strive to keep the memory of our loved one alive, to never forget them, we need to remember not to forget about ourselves or the one who gave us life.
It’s taken me a long time to write this post. Probably because I find it difficult to put to words something that is still very much in progress: thirsty and growing but not yet in full bloom. There is such beauty in this offer of relationship and I am thankful that in these moments of imperfection and weakness, His grace is revealed in abundance.
“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.” Psalm 63:1-4