“She’s at peace now,” so many people had said to me. I’d smile and nod in response, but deep inside I wondered if she really was.
“At least she’s in heaven now,” I had heard countless times. All the while I thought to myself, Dear God, I hope so, but I wasn’t so sure.
After my sister passed way, I did not have a sense of peace about her death. She had led a difficult life having struggled with alcohol and drugs. Unable to break free from these addictions, they eventually took her life. I intensely wanted to believe that she was at peace—free from the turmoil of her life, but I could not. I can’t explain why I felt the way I did (maybe it was just my own grief), I can only say that this is what I was experiencing. For the days and months to follow it became my greatest hope and my prayer that she was at peace.
Most of her life my sister had lived apart from her faith. Occasionally she would briefly find her way back but then she would stray once again. She called herself a Christian because that was the church she would attend, but did she really know the Lord? Had she accepted him as her Savior? I should have asked her more questions. I had assumed she was, but now that she was gone I couldn’t say for certain.
After the memorial service, my sister’s daughter insisted I take a plant home. “I’m not very good with houseplants,” I told her.
“Now, I can’t believe that,” she replied in a light-hearted way, a moment’s respite from the sadness of the last few days. “I’ve seen your green thumb. You must plant hundreds of flowers in your yard every year.”
“Yeah but when it comes to indoor plants, that same green thumb turns blue from lack of oxygen,” I tried to convince her.
She laughed at me and pushed the plant into my arms. “There are too many for me to take home. At least take this one.”
I didn’t know what kind of plant it was or how to care for it. In order to keep an eye on it, I put it in front of the window of my home office. There were days I would look up from my desk to find the plant drooping slightly and think: Just as soon as I finish in here I need to water that plant. Somehow I would get sidetracked and forget. A couple of days later, I’d find its lifeless leaves at rest on the ground. Rushing into the kitchen to get some water, I promptly returned to pour it into the parched soil. Just a short time later, that plant would be standing upright once again. Eventually, I came to call it the “forgiving plant” because as many times as I neglected it, with just a little care, it would forgive my lack of attention and come back to life. The “forgiving plant” became a symbol of hope that my sister was at peace.
One day while immersed in my work, I glanced over at the plant and discovered its leaves were once again drooping. On closer examination I could see the leaves were coated with dust and that in spite of my repeated negligence it had outgrown its original container. Setting my work aside I decided it was time to give my “forgiving plant” a day at the spa.
Taking the plant outdoors, I gently wiped down each soft, wilted leaf. When I removed the plant from its plastic container, in order to transplant it to another, I noticed for the first time a plant stake pushed deep into the soil. Wondering what the real name of my “forgiving plant” was, I pulled out the stake and attempted to pronounce it scientific name, “Spathiphyllum.” Dusting off the remaining specks of soil that clung to the tag, I saw in small print the plants common name, “Peace Lily.” I was astonished. This plant which had come to represent my hope for peace held at its roots a message it seemed destined to deliver.
On the day that I discovered the plants real name it had been almost a year since my sister’s passing. Although I had gradually come to have a greater sense of peace over time, it was in that moment that I knew she was—and so was I.
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