Today was his mother’s birthday and Ben Sanger walked softly over to where she lay sleeping peacefully. He stood silently for several minutes watching her, thinking how serene she looked. Wouldn’t she be surprised if she awoke and saw him hovering like a lost child? Even more surprised by the fact that he remembered her favorite flowers, white roses. Ben had not been that thoughtful for many years. He lived far away and his business was so demanding.
[It’s alright, son, I know how busy you are], his mom had said many times when he begged off from visiting as he promised. [Just remember to occasionally take time to smell the roses.] It was her favorite saying.
Inwardly, Ben was impatient for her attention and anxious to hear her say that things would be alright, that he was forgiven for his neglect. [Wake up, Mama, I have some flowers for you.] He wanted to reach out and gently shake her awake so that she could see that things would be different now; but he restrained himself. Heaven knew she deserved her rest.
Ben had been six when his father passed away from cancer. Medical bills left his mother in dire financial shape, forcing her to take whatever jobs she could find, like cleaning houses and taking in ironing. Young Ben hadn’t understood that at the time; all he knew was that his mother worked hard, yet somehow always managed to make time for him. Whether it was reading him a story or helping him learn how to catch a ball or watching him in a school play, she was there. Sundays, however, belonged to the Lord and Ben remembered how they always went to church. He also recalled that there was never a meal served in their home without grace being said.
[Thank you, Father, for the blessings you have given to Ben and me and for the precious time we have together…]
“Mama, please wake up,” Ben whispered, his desperation building.
His eyes strayed to the pale flowers he’d ordered for her; two dozen white roses, beautifully arranged and displayed near where she slept. “See the flowers I have for you,” he said aloud, reaching out to touch one, feeling the softness of a fragile petal before bending down to inhale its fragrance. Ironically, the rose's scent reminded him of the perfume she always wore.
[Take time to smell the roses, son.]
The sound of the church organ filled his ears. It was the melancholy chords of his mother’s favorite hymn. Ben felt a gentle squeeze on his shoulder.
“It’s time, Ben. The service is about to begin,” the pastor said.
No! Ben shook his head and tears he fought to hold back now flowed freely. He fell to his knees, uncaring that his grief was on display for all who’d gathered to say goodbye to his mom. It was too late. She would never see the flowers.
“NO!” he cried out. “No, no, no…wake up, mama, please wake up…wake up…”
“…wake up, wake up!” Ben felt someone shaking him. “Mr. Sanger?”
Ben lifted his head and through bleary eyes looked up at the woman standing beside him. Was it his mother?
“You were having a bad dream,” Pat, his secretary, said, her voice mirroring the concerned expression on her face.
He realized that he had fallen asleep at his desk.
“Are you alright, Mr. Sanger?” she asked as Ben struggled to pull himself together.
He looked at the clock on his desk and saw that it was 9:00 p.m., another late night at the office. Then he remembered Pat—a single mother who he was sure felt torn between wanting to be at home with her children and needing to meet the demands of a workaholic boss.
“Yes, I’m fine now. Go home, Pat. Where you belong,” Ben told her softly. “In fact, take the rest of the week off. Smell some roses. I know that’s what I’ll be doing.”
Despite her perplexed look, Pat didn’t stick around to ask questions, and it made Ben smile. Then he reached for his phone and punched in his mother’s number. As soon as he heard her voice, he sent up a silent prayer of thanks and began to speak.
“Hi, Mom, it’s Ben. I’m flying home tomorrow for your birthday…
“…yes, I really mean it,” he replied reassuringly.
“And, Mom… I hope you have lots of vases.”
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