The bluebells bloomed about a month early this year. I can't tell you how this rocked my world. I already had a jam-packed schedule in the three weeks before Holy Week. I was trying to finish Easter sewing, double up on lessons, do a spring cleaning and prepare to leave my children and go with my husband on a surprise trip. I knew that when I returned, I would be on the threshold of the Triduum, so I wanted to prepare well for that, too. And then, someone broke his nose, someone else got strep throat ( a first time ever for our family), and Mike's father ended up in the hospital for several days. One day, in the midst of it all, I got an email. "Bluebells expected to be at peak next week."
Bluebell Week is my favorite week of the year. It is my consoling thought during long winters. It is the burst of newness and springtime and hope that brings my weary spirit back to life. It is where I rejoice with my whole heart in God's glory in nature. I never miss it. And I never want my children to miss it.
This year, the weather was annoying during the bluebell's time in the sun (or not). Every day that I had a car available, rain was forecast. Friends we've met there every year were mostly unable to come, or couldn't come for very long. Sometime during the flower's blooming I received an email from a friend whose family we especially enjoy down at Bull Run. The subject line was "Bluebell Panic" because that's what I was feeling as I tried to make the calendar fashioned by my hands work with the God's timing of spring. My friend wrote, " I think that my family will have to wait until next year to see the bluebells again."
And in that moment, I felt an envy I have never felt before. I envied the ease with which she wrote "next year." I never do that. I never, ever assume next year. Heck, I never assume tomorrow. For twenty-two springs, twenty-two seasons of flowers blooming, I always wonder if fear that I won't see them bloom again. And I always, always take the time to make sure my family notices them, too. Just this year, I wanted the easy-breezy "next year" mentality.
Usually, I consider this awareness of the preciousness of time to be a great gift, perhaps the greatest gift of surviving cancer. I just don't take anything for granted. For the most part, it's made me more grateful than most people can imagine for every single heartbeat. It does, however, come with a bit of dark lining. I have trouble sitting still, trouble just being. I always have this sense of cramming every bit of living into every single moment because I don't know how short life is. I have trouble leaving my children--not because I'm worried something will happen to them while I'm away or that I won't return, but just because I know with every fiber of my being that I won't get those moments again. It's a pretty intense way to live.
This year, I recognized with startling clarity that God knew. God knew the intensity. And God knew the schedule and the weather and the state of my housekeeping. I handed it all to Him and asked Him to direct my days, to help me glorify Him with my time, and bring me the peace of heart and soul I knew I needed.
He began with the bluebells. We managed to squeeze in a couple very brief visits with friends with the promise to meet again. But then, those promises got swallowed up by logistics for those friends. Then, Linda, Nicholas' godmother, called and told me the absolute only day she could meet us there. Our meeting in the woods has been a tradition since before Nicholas could walk. Since before her son, Bobby, who is my godchild, was born. We cherish these days. We were together by the creek with the flowers the day the new Pope was elected. (That's a great story. You can click. I'll wait.) I looked around my house. I looked at my to-do list. No doubt, the house would stay dirty--the dirt would still be there. But the flowers would not stay in bloom. I took a deep breath. I recognized that I would, indeed, have a car available. We'll be there.
We went. The morning was glorious. Linda met me there with a friend. For over 20 years, people have been telling me I had to meet this lady. And for over 20 years, she's heard the same thing about me. We have a lot of mutual friends. One of them is Linda. And on this day, God brought us together. I shared my flowers with her. It's always such a joy to show someone the first time.
Around noon, all three of my big boys joined us. Nine children --all nine of my children-- together in the place we've made so many memories. Linda knows me well. Sensing that the enormity of the bittersweet was threatening the joy of the present moment, she began to seize the photo-op and direct my picture efforts. From behind the lens, my mind whirled. Next year, Patrick will be away at school, and probably Christian, too. Michael will likely be married by then, but certainly he will finally have a day job and be much less available. This could be the last time I snap a photo of all of them in the bluebells. The log they once sat on--back when there were only six of them--had long since decayed, a natural reminder that nothing ever stays the same. We have only today. And there was Linda. Directing and orchestrating, making sure we made the most of the moment.
I am so grateful.
I walked out of the woods that day with my new friend. We shared as if we'd know each other forever. I was struck by God's abundant goodness. And then, just when I thought the day couldn't be any fuller, God reminded me that I've had the great gift of bringing my children to this place for more than a decade. My new friend Jean was just beginning to know the bluebells. She came with her last little girl, a daughter my Sarah's age.
And she also brought her baby grandson.
There is tangible hope in those flowers.