I’ve been trying to find the words to tell my story about the rose. It was a watershed experience in my life and I worry that I won’t be able to make it come out right. So I’ll just plunge in.
There were many unexplainable things that happened in the six weeks my husband was actively dying. I’ll write about some of them at another time. Right now, I want to stick to the rose.
The day my husband died was very quite. He had had a bad night but that morning was peaceful. My Aunt Mary was visiting from New Jersey. I had the hospital bed set up in the family room which was connected to the kitchen and she and I were sitting at the kitchen table talking. The doorbell rang and I answered it. My friend Ann (my mother’s name was Ann, important later on) who often came to give me some relief from tending to Lorenzo, was at the door. She came in and gave me the most beautiful, full rose. “This was in my garden this morning. I was surprised to see it. You don’t usually get roses this late. (We were in Arizona.) I thought it might cheer you up.” I thanked her and got a glass to put it in. While I was filling it up, I heard Lorenzo make a noise. “He sounds uncomfortable”, I said. “I’d better give him his meds.” I filled up the dropper with the Oxicontin and went to the bed. I knew immediately he was dead. I touched his face and kissed him. Then I said “I think he’s dead.”
I’ll skip through all of what happened for the next few weeks, which where nuts because he died the week before Thanksgiving. I’ll move ahead to where I was when it all calmed down, after the first of the year.
I was lost. I plunged into deep grief. I couldn’t function. I would be stopped at a red light and forget to go when it turned green – until the horns started honking. I slept through the weekends. I had nothing in my refrigerator but gin, vermouth and olives. I couldn’t continue like that. Then I read that my church was offering a grief recovery workshop. I signed up. The group met once a week at noon. I got my employer to give me permission to extend my lunch hour to two hours so I could attend. The first day I drove to the workshop, Bette Midler’s “The Rose” came on the radio. I had never heard it before but it really struck me. The next week, the same thing happened. Then I started to notice roses. If I bought a dress and looked at the label when I got home, there was a rose on it. I bought a purse and when I got home, I saw the zipper tab was a rose. Every week, when I drove to my workshop, “The Rose” would come on the radio. Everywhere, roses. I kept telling people, “These roses mean something. I just don’t know what.” It drove me crazy. Then, in April, I opened a religious magazine I subscribed to. It fell open to an article illustrated with a picture of pink roses. I sat down and read it. The author was a woman who had lost her children and challenged St. Therese to send her a rose as proof they were alright. I began sobbing. My mother, who was a great devotee of St. Therese, had died 18 months before my husband. I had frequently told Lorenzo that if my mother ever came for him, he should go with her. Every rose in the past five months came flooding back.to me.
But that is not where it ends. For the next several months, every time I felt depressed, a rose would appear. The following Christmas, I decided to cross something off my bucket list and learn how to ski. I booked a four day trip to Park City Utah. I had a wonderful time. On Christmas Eve, I had dinner at a downtown restaurant. I was feeling very sad and thinking that this time I wasn’t going to get my rose. I was having a last glass of wine after dinner, when the woman at the piano began playing and singing “The Rose”. I started to cry. The waitress came over and asked if I was alright. I told her the story. As I was talking, I noticed she was crying too. “What?”, I asked. She told me the following:
“There was a rock band that was scheduled to play tonight. They cancelled the last minute. We got her to fill in. She plays all the time but never on Christmas Eve. But she said OK. I’ve worked here for five years and I have never heard her play that song before, not before tonight.”
I got my rose.