A rose is a rose…
Not very long ago, I attended the funeral of a friend’s mother. The entire family was very close to me. The funeral was held in a very small chapel, with attendance from family, church, and very few others. Each family member, in succession, got up and made some offering, a speech, a memory, a verse, a song, in honour of the mother they loved so well.
Finally, it was the youngest son’s turn to go up and contribute. With a great amount of tears and emotion, he told this story, below.
When I was just nine years old, I remember, on the farm, we didn’t have much. Outside the living room window was a single rosebush. It was one of the only flowers in the garden, and had been there, a solitary bloomer, when my family moved in. The rosebush produced, faithfully each year, a solitary, single yellow rose. There was no other rose like this one. It was a miniature flower, perhaps only at the most an inch and a half across. It had many compound tightly packed petals. Its scent was subtle and sweet, and delicate. Its colour was indescribable, really. It was a beautiful pale yellow, not butter, not lemon, but something lovely and in between.
We weren’t to pick the flowers in our garden. Our father had said so. But that year, I picked that single, solitary rose and took it in to my mother to put in a small budvase that she had got for her birthday that year. When I gave it to her, mother cried. She wondered why I had picked it; it was the only flower on the bush. I told her I picked it because I knew it was her favourite. She cried as she put it in water in the budvase. I didn’t understand.
Later that year, I came home from school one day to find that the fence rails around the garden had been broken down. Tractor tracks drilled through the mud onto the lawn. My heart was in my throat as I saw that they led directly to the rosebush. In place of the rosebush was a ragged hole of mud. Nothing was said at supper that evening.
The youngest son paused at this point in his narration, and his wife solemnly came up the isle to present each of the brothers and sisters with a single yellow rose. I understand, now, why mother cried, he said. Let us all take this yellow rose as a token of our love for each other, which must be protected, and never destroyed, now that we only have each other.
The rest of the congregation at the chapel stirred and twisted uneasily in their seats. This was a strange and disturbing story. Nothing more was said. At the wake that evening, the siblings talked amongst each other. One was embarrassed that one of the family skeletons was laid bare at the funeral. Another said, achingly, I don’t remember any rosebush. How could I not remember that which was a favourite of our mother’s? Heather, the older sister, acidly remembered that mother’s favourite colour was red, never pale yellow. Another observed that our father would never destroy fence rails in order to dig up a mere bush…he would have stopped to take them down first.
What I remember, was that on the day the family moved from that house, I was one of the younger friends there and had time on my hands with nothing to do between the fetching and carrying. Like the master gardener that I grew up to be, I dug up several pretty orange tulips and a poppy, for them to take along. And from a single, old thriving yellow rosebush, I took a clipping in order to perpetuate its beauty forever. For you see, the rosebush was still there; it had never suffered the rape and destruction of the younger son’s memory.
In one single family, many perspectives and myths are formed. Each member suffers and celebrates differently than another. Each has, to him or herself, a different mother and father than every other sibling. As we go through life, we need to remember this…we can never walk in another’s shoes, nor even experience a single incident in the same way as another…we are all individuals in experience, and we all need to be kind to one another, because of it…
Copyright ©Robin Warner 2007
Robin most recently has been an Administrator for the Bureau of Credentialing at the New Hampshire Department of Education. She has been in Education for over 20 years and is also a writer and artist.