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My Mother Ran a Retirement Home for Plants

February 10, 2011

A week or two ago someone gave my pastors a large plant—you know, the kind that sits on the floor and has big waxy leaves and looks fake but isn’t? And the story was told that plants just don’t live in their house. Like, ever. This plant was supposed to go home with them to die—I mean, to live—but as of last Saturday was still at church.

And the poor little guy was getting rather droopy.

In a moment of perfect timing, just as I was walking over to pour out my water bottle over him, one of the pastors came upstairs with a watering can. I commented on the fortuitous timing, then made a crack about how the plant hadn’t been brought home to die like they had said they would.

Somehow I don’t think he found that funny.

Suddenly I remembered it was his wife who had made the joke.


But all that got me to thinking, because honestly I’m no stranger to dubious plant health care.

Growing up I remember going to Meijer with my mom and looking through the houseplant section. My mom loved going to visit the violets—she just loved violets. And, invariably, her heart would go out to some poor little thing that was clearly on its last legs (roots?). She would buy it with the beautiful plan of nursing it back to health.

Except then it died.

I remember, even as a young child, wondering why oh why she wouldn’t just take the nice healthy ones, instead of ones that would just die and make her sad anyway.

Let me say right now that my mom actually did not kill every plant she ever bought, and currently has a nice little collection, including a plant she gave me in college (whom I named Harry) but can’t have now because my cat would eat him.

But back then it just felt like we were a hospice for dying violets.

I think it stems from the fact that my grandma always had plants. It’s one of the memories I have of going to her house—right there in the front window was a stepped ladder with plants on every surface. I don’t recall the types, but I loved seeing them.

Grandma’s plants always did fine. But then, Grandma was a nurse, so maybe she knew a few secrets about keeping things alive. Secrets she hoarded, clearly. Bad Grandma. 🙂

But it takes a special kind of person to want to care for plants that are dying—just like it takes a very special kind of person to care for people who are dying. Hospice workers are surrounded with reminders and foreshadowing of their own future deaths, and yet they bring care and compassion to people who sometimes can’t even go to the bathroom on their own any more.

It’s not like they should just be thrown out, right?

So what does that mean to me, to you? I can say that it means we shouldn’t be too quick to just throw something away (physically or metaphorically) just because it’s old, or dying, or because we don’t feel that we have the gifts we need to take care of it. If God put something in your life, He will prepare you and give you what you need to take care of it. Even if all you’re supposed to do is make it comfortable for the last few days/weeks/years of its life.

And remember that we are all precious, beautiful flowers in His sight.

Maybe my mom had it right, after all.

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