Dealing with the Death of Someone We Love: the flowers that bloom in heaven

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:24

God has given us many ways of seeing death and resurrection in our daily lives. Each dawn is like a mini resurrection as it banishes the night. The seasons show us a natural cycle of life, death and the renewal of life. None of us fears that winter will last forever; we all know life will be restored in spring every year. Our lives here are like the life of the seeds on a flower. Each of us is like a little seed, growing on a beautiful flower. The seed may be big or small, plain or ugly, but it is not yet what it is meant to become. We can never be what we were created to be unless we are planted. In order to be fully human, the wondrous beings that we were intended to be, we must die first.

When my seven year old daughter, Mary Evelyn, was fighting cancer, she found a brown-eyed susan in our garden. She plucked it, played with it for a few minutes, and then forgot about it and left it lying on my desk. The next morning I found the flower dry and shriveled up. My husband picked it up and pretended that it spoke to Mary Evelyn. He made the flower say, “I’m thirsty” to tease her. She felt so sorry for the flower she placed it in a mug of water and said sweet things to it. I made a mental note to throw it out later so she wouldn’t be disappointed.

Fortunately, I forgot to throw the flower out because a few days later we noticed that it had completely revived. Not only was it blooming again, it was larger and more beautiful than ever. It stayed beautiful for a long time. A few weeks later, I gave the flower to our priest and he kept it in his office. I saw it  recently and almost three years later, although it’s dry, it retains a bright yellow color.

It may not be a miracle, but it was a beautiful message to us.  When death moved into our family and seemed to camp out in dark corners filled with fear, faith brought eternity to comfort us. We are comforted not by platitudes, but by the unshakable certainty of Christ “trampling down death by death”. When you know someone you love is dying, the only thing that is comforting is knowing that God has victory over death. The hymns of the church are invigorated with a personal life and hope. Every time we recite “I look for the life of the world to come” I know that my daughter is part of that world and it fills me with hope as I feel a personal connection with the communion of saints who surround us.

As a flower withers and a dream fades, so is each man’s flesh dissolved by death. But at the sound of the trumpet like a mighty earthquake, all the dead shall rise again to meet you, O Christ, our God. On that day, O Master, receive all Your departed servants in the mansions of the saints.

–From the Orthodox Funeral Service

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