Ellen pulled on a warm jacket and stepped out onto a white blanket of late February snow. Then she spotted the flower. Beneath the big oak, pushing stubbornly through the crust of ice, was a tiny yellow crocus. Bending over, Ellen adjusted her camera to macro setting and snapped the first picture. She moved around, clicking from different angles, carefully highlighting snowflakes still clinging to the delicate petals.
The crocus wasn’t so much a sign of spring as a lovely little promise. Soon the cold brown earth would warm with the sun’s rays, yielding soft green blades of grass. The jonquils would begin to bloom, one, then another, until they displayed a brilliant sea of yellow.
Ellen stood upright, taking a deep tremulous breath. It was time. She started her walk down the neglected but familiar path.
Had it been only a few days ago, or had it been a lifetime? She and Brent had walked together along these same steps and through the wooded area behind their home. Spring was “their” time, as they were newly retired, and finally could drink in the loveliness of God’s handiwork at their leisure. They watched tree limbs bursting with tight little buds, then a hint of color, and finally rich green leaves.
“It’s amazing how many different shades of green there really are. The pines, always dark and towering, the oaks and elms, a brighter hue, with beautifully carved leaves, then there are young bushes with a glossy, wet look,” Ellen had observed aloud one day.
“It’s about the difference in the chlorophyll, or pigment,” Brent had replied. “It’s a process called photosynthesis, as the leaves absorb different levels of energy from the sunlight.”
Looking back on that actually made Ellen smile. Awestruck with the beauty around her, she hadn’t cared at all about the why and how. How differently their minds had worked, yet how blended their hearts had become through the years.
On that day in late spring last year, Brent had seemed a bit more breathless than usual, and sank into his recliner as they returned home. Ellen had started dinner when she heard his call, low and strained. Rushing down the hall, she found him slumped in the chair, already unresponsive. Though she dialed 911, sobbing, Ellen knew her dear Brent was gone. In one swift moment, he had stepped out of time into eternity and left her, with no time for goodbyes.
The following days were a blur. Calling their daughters, Kristi and Beth, was the hardest thing she’d ever done. That was, at least, until she’d had to look into the faces of her grandsons, Ben and Steven, who had loved Brent so deeply. She dissolved into tears as ten-year-old Ben, patted her saying , “It’s okay, Grams, Gramps is in heaven with Jesus, and He’ll take good care of him.”
Through the summer, Ellen was numb, remaining strong for those she loved. Kristi and Beth, through their own grief, were kind and helpful as she struggled with paying bills, getting finances rearranged, and other sudden and pressing tasks.
Pastor Jim and church friends came often, with caring words and prayers. Ellen clung to the promises of her heavenly Father, even in the absence of all feeling. She memorized Ps. 119:76: “May your unfailing love be my comfort, according to your promise to your servant.” (NIV)
“Are you sure you’re okay, Mom?” Beth had asked, when autumn came, with school and other activities beginning.
“Yes, honey,” Ellen had answered firmly. “You must all get back to your lives and each other.”
The chill in the air seemed to awaken her suppressed emotions. Tears finally came freely, sometimes for hours, but she took comfort from that unfailing love.
The winter found Ellen indoors a lot, where she'd sorted through Brent’s clothing and personal things. Sadly she had embraced the memories, and slowly came to grips with going on, for a time, without her beloved husband. The hope of seeing him again in heaven had grown steadily brighter. Until then, their God had promised His comfort and unfailing love.
And now,spring was coming. It wasn’t here yet, but was on its way. The yellow crocus promised that. So Ellen, too, would push up through the coldness, the hardness, and be a message of hope and of life yet to come. She lifted her eyes to the blue sky and continued walking down the path.
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