Monday, January 4, 2010


Thanks to all of you who wrote private notes of sympathy to me after reading the part of my Macbeth blog that referred to my father’s death. In the blog I described my birthday after his death when my mother gave me a gift he’d purchased sometime before. I said that when my mother said the gift was from my dad, I thought for one glorious moment that he was somehow back. It was so kind of you to identify with my sorrow and to take the time to write me. It’s true my father’s death was a tragedy, but I think that when his gift was placed in my hands the seed of faith was planted in me.

One of my autumn chores when young and living in Allendale, NJ was to gather seeds from my mother’s prolific gardens. This had to be done in late August or early September when the flowers were spent and tired of blooming. It was drier, harder to blossom. The flowers would wither and the plant would form seed pockets from the life stored in them. I shook the dried pods into white envelopes marked with the plant’s name to be stored and planted in spring.

I did not get my father back that day. He was not brought back to life. The dazzling moment of believing he was alive was brief, silent and alone. I said nothing. As thrilling as the moment of belief was, the clammy hand of reality clutched me too quickly again.

I still love to gather seeds. This year I planted “hummingbird salvia” which is a pink and coral salvia that has flowers shaped like miniature snap dragons. I put them in my window boxes and not only do they grow profusely, but they call the hummingbirds right up to my window where I can glimpse them while busy inside. And these old-fashioned plants produce seeds. All summer I gather these and keep them in labeled white envelopes to be planted right in the window boxes next spring.

That splendid moment was like a door thrown open to a bright place— bright because it had none of the wounding sorrow that weighed and baffled me. That moment has stayed with me. The memory, the glimpse of a loved one being brought back to life is as bright and poignant now as it was then. In my life I’ve known many moments of bliss, when Karl sang the song he wrote to tell me he loved me, holding my babies for the first time and whispering to them, my children’s triumphs, my grandchildren’s presence, to list a few. But no thrill I’ve known has ever compared with the understanding of the astonished joy that someone being brought back to life would bring.

The skeptic might say that I am feeding on an unfullfilled hope.  But I think not because for some odd reason, the physical things of life create a way for us to understand the truth that lies beneath.
During the shivery winter days when the sparkle of the holiday is put away, my thoughts turn to spring and to planning my garden. I like winter, but I also like to think of the hummingbirds again buzzing at my window at plants grown from seeds I’ve kept safe when it was too cold and hostile outside for them to grow.

I think that a seed of faith was stored in my heart the moment my mother gave me the gift my father had put away for me. A favorite line in the Bible says that God is “father to the fatherless.” This has been true for me. A human, breathing father, I would never have again, but my heart expected something greater after that moment. Faith grew and grows still. The essence of my faith is life brought from death.

But not just physical death.

Death creeps into life, slams into life, robbing health, joy, relationships, integrity, plans, goals, peace. Yet just as the withering flower holds seeds, in the horror of death, God gives a way back to life. The joy that would be mine if breath and heart beat were restored, can be mine in reality, in the dead parts of my life through the redeeming power of faith.


  1. This is beautiful! An absolute joy to read. Thank you.

  2. I can't believe I know someone writes and thinks like this. Lovely.