Have you ever glanced at a sign and thought you knew what it said? Today I was sure the big sandwich sign in front of the garden store said, “God for Sale.” “Well great,” I thought, “that’s exactly what I need.” I momentarily considered that the store had stocked some spiritual articles, and then forgot the sign completely. I was on a mission.
You see I was going to visit a dear friend who is facing life with ovarian cancer. I wanted flowers or a plant or bulbs that would give her back her future. I looked for hydrangeas called, Everlasting, I considered bulbs that wouldn’t grow until next spring, and I finally settled on a white rose plant called “Hope.” I wanted to offer my friend some sense of continuing life.
When I arrived at her home in the country, she stood waving from the front field. She wore a stocking cap and I knew immediately she had shaved her head. Taking control of the inevitable loss of her gloriously long gray hair, she donned a buzz cut. “Do you want to see?” she asked. “If you want to show me.” I said. And with tears and smiles, I touched the soft fuzz on her head. “You are beautiful.” I said and we went to make tea.
We sat in the generous spring sunshine, sipping tea. And my friend told me her story, as I imagine she has told many people: how she found the cancer, what she has endured so far, what comes next in her treatment. I listened. We talked about what flowers are blooming and what birds she has seen, who has come to visit and who has not. I listened. We talked as if the cancer was gone and what she wanted if she died, and I listened.
And then she told me of a passage by Pema Chödrön that soothed her. “All we ever have is this moment. It is what you had yesterday and what you will have tomorrow.”
“So you see,” she told me, “I have lost nothing.” And she cried, and I listened. And God sat between us and promised us this moment, always and forever.
My gift of hope didn’t come from the rose plant I brought; it came from two friends sitting in the sun, listening to now.
Oh yeah, that sign at the garden center, it said “Sod for sale.”