In Atlanta, we have the luxury of planting pansies in the fall and viewing their curious faces all winter long. That is how my grandma described their blossomsóas ďfaces.Ē You know what? She was right.
If you look into a pansyís velvet petals, you can see its eager expression peeking out at you. It was my grandmotherís love for this flower that drew me to Viola tricolor hortensis when I was a little girl. My favorites were the white petals with purple centers, or ďfaces.Ē They remain my favorite flower today.
Since pansies are annuals, last yearís flowers had long since died and been pulled from the ground, never to be seen again. I hadnít taken the time to plant even one flat of pansy seedlings this fall.
Actually, I hadnít found the time to do much of anything but work since September. My job had become especially demanding due to a project that required me to fly weekly to Washington, D.C.
Between airports, delayed flights, cancellations, taxicabs, trains, and countless hotel rooms, I hadnít spent enough time with my husband, hadnít returned phone calls from my parents, hadnít sent birthday cards to my dearest friends, and certainly hadnít made time to focus on God and His plans for my life. Most important, I hadnít taken the necessary time to come to terms with the death of my beloved grandma.
Perhaps by skipping the whole pansy planting process this autumn, I was putting off facing the reality that Grandma, the only grandparent I had ever known, had died. My connection between her and the flowers was so strong. I told myself I was just ďtoo busyĒ for gardening enough times that I convinced myself it was true.
As I drove home from the airport one chilly November evening, I was overwhelmed by an empty pang in my heart. It had begun as a slight ache that Thursday and had built up to a deep hollow throb after five straight days of deadlines, lists, conference calls, and meetings.
I hadnít allowed any time for myself to read, visit with friends and family, or even pray. I had tried to ignore this vacuous feeling inside of me. I had just kept going and going, like a robot following programmed commands, forgetting about all of the things in life that gave it deeper meaning.
The pain was especially great this particular evening due to a canceled flight that delayed my getting home until long after my lonely husband was already in bed. After fighting eight lanes of stop-and-go traffic for over an hour, caused by what appeared to be a fatal accident, I arrived home frazzled. As I pulled into my driveway, my headlights shone into the empty flower beds. I glimpsed something white resting on the ground. I parked my car in the garage and walked around to the front yard to collect what I assumed was a piece of garbage and throw it away. But I did not find any trash. Instead, I found a lone white pansy with a purple face flourishing in a barren bed of pine straw.
The determined flower had fought all odds to spring from a ripped-up root, which is not bred for regrowth, to return this year. It didnít seem possible, and maybe it wasnít. Yet here was a perfect posy grinning at me and asking me from its remarkable face why I, too, couldnít break through the soil and let myself bloom. If loved ones who have passed away can speak to us from heaven, I knew this was Grandmaís way of letting me know that although she had left this earth, she wasnít really gone. Just like the pansy, which had been pulled from the dirt yet was still blossoming, my grandmotherís spirit would always flourish inside my heart and with God.
Grandma never would have put work first. Her family and friends were the priorities in her world. She didnít know the meaning of timetables or of deadlines. Although her life was simple, she was always happy and saw only the good in others and the beauty in the world around her.
Hers was an example God would be proud of, one that I should follow. Perhaps it was time to open up my heart and my eyes to the important things around me, to fill up the empty hole inside me with the nourishment that only God could give me. Work could wait. Life, as the pansy showed me (through Godís miraculous powers), could not.