• Pat Johnson

Hope

I am sitting at my computer with perspiration trickling down my face. I’ve just come in from outside after having raked debris out the beds around the deck that probably should have been collected last fall on the final yard cleanup. Where does the time go? I’m not certain I can even recall what kept me from doing a more thorough cleanup unless I knew that something else was more important. So, I talked myself into believing that covering all of the shrubs, at least the stems, would save them from the harshness of winter.

This was the year that broke the record for the most snowfall in the Detroit area. Spring is barely here, and it is approaching May 15.

My first reality check was when I uncovered the lawn, raking the dead grass and leaves off its surface. Half of the lawn came up in my rake. You see, we had decided NOT to do grub prevention last fall. Things were a bit tight, and that was one thing we thought we could do without. How wrong could I have been!

At first I thought that it was the additional snow that had smothered the lawn, but as I raked dead grass into small hills, I knelt down and looked more closely. There, curled up in what I would have called a fetal position at any other time, was a thick white grub. So that’s what’s the matter with my lawn, I sighed.

I immediately got on the telephone with the landscaping company. “We need grub control--NOW!” That was over a week ago. They showed up this morning at 8am before I had a chance to wash my hair. So, I declined to lift the blinds, and stealthily watched from an upstairs window. When the deed was done, I finished getting ready and got online to determine how to turn on the sprinkler system. All went well, minus the fact that we had two leaks in the system. I determined to water the chemicals in and then turn off the system and wait for the sprinkler people to come and fix the leaks.

Ah, the grass was saved. No more damage this year. Now I can turn my attention to the shrubs. I did a visual scan of the yard. Things did not look good. The azaleas looked like they had been burned. The rhododendrons had no buds, the flowering pear had half of the blooms that I expected to see by this time.

I walked around to the front to survey the other landscape in the area. Trees in full bloom. Bulbs bursting out of the ground showing their stuff. Ground cover thick and spring green littered with little purple flowers. My yard had somehow been chosen for the worst damage from the winter in the entire neighborhood!

As I began to clear the beds, entire shrubs became decapitated from their root systems now dead and lifeless. Suckers were hogging the beds, but the primary plants were dead and gone. One peachy-yellow rhodie that I had nurtured carefully last summer was stone dead. I was beginning to feel picked-on!

Yesterday I had lunch with a dear friend and relative. As we sat together and she shared about her financial situation, she saw great blessing in having her mortgageable balance lowered over $100,000. Her hope grew visibly as she recounted a comment that she had shared with her 50ish son who was back living with her: “Be an adult and negotiate your debts.” Which he did. She was grateful for getting painkillers to alleviate the pain associated with her last shot of Neulasta shortly after her first chemo treatment for ovarian cancer (Stage IIIc). And she was thoroughly enjoying the YOUtube videos her son, Reuben, had sent to her via email. He was attending a church in North Carolina. “These services are contemporary, but the sermons are so deep,” she chirped to me.

I thought about the yard. Why did we get hit more drastically than our neighbors? And then I thought about Darcy. Her life was full of trauma, crisis, disappointment and devastation. Pregnant at the age of 16, she married the man who impregnated her. A few years after that, her mother passed away from a stroke in her 60’s, and then her father, just a few short years later, died of prostate cancer that had metastasized to his bones.

Her marriage to Kirby had ended in divorce, and she was raising her four children alone. Skip ahead to just a few years ago...one of her middle sons lost his job in the South and came back to live with her. She realized shortly thereafter that he was an alcoholic. Her youngest son was also living with her. He had a brain tumor, had had numerous strokes, and was losing mobility and strength daily.

A couple of years ago, Darcy had breast cancer. She had a mastectomy. And all this while, she kept her real estate job going, showing houses and making sales. There were good years, and there were bad years. She suffered much loss in the recession. Now she has ovarian cancer, has just recently recovered from major abdominal surgery and is going through rigorous chemo treatments while she continues to show houses and make sales.

What does “recovery” look like? I think of my yard again. Some of the plants lost will be pulled out and will disappear from the yard. They will be replaced by new, fresh shrubs. I will remember next year that just because I thought I had protected everything doesn’t mean that I still won’t encounter loss. Life goes on. Seasons come and go. Nature groans. Yet flowers still bloom, and life continues to push forth.

Darcy’s “recovery” shows some of the same signs. Some of her seasons have had incalculable loss. Some years have been harsher than others. Yet, in the middle of it all, she exudes hope. Not that she doesn’t cry and grieve and have down times, but still what pours forth to others is that inextinguishable hope.

I think that if I asked her how she felt about dying, she’d probably say something like, “Well, for me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in this body, that means I have plenty yet to do.I don’t know which I prefer. I’m ambivalent about it. I’d love to leave and be with Jesus. That would be awesome, but to stay is important, too, because there are those who need me.”

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