When I Learned Not to Give Up on Growth

A tree with pink blooms covering a window

These flowers will simply not grow.

I shook my head. With one hand, I awkwardly lifted up its white vase and placed the plant by the door. I quietly planned to take it out to the brown bin. After a few minutes of Clorox wiping and rearranging, I turned back to the plant. The beautiful red blooms drooped and as if, knowing their fate, frowned at me. 

I sighed, hit with the pang of disappointment, and resolved not to buy another house plant. At the thought, I felt melancholy. Since the cancer diagnosis in September, even the smallest bits of gardening, acted as a refuge from the ache of disease. 

Even the smallest bits of gardening, acted as a refuge from the ache of disease. 

It was then my younger sister, Ava, found me with my hands on my hip. “I’m tossing the plant,” I said, not meeting her gaze. She looked at the now shiny empty table, at the poor plant, and then back at me.

“It just needs water,” she concluded with gentleness.

“You think so?” I asked, already walking back toward the group of floppy stems. I hoisted the vase back up onto the table and went to the kitchen.

Ava’s response was unsurprising as it was not the first (or the last) time she encouraged me not to give up so quickly. In between bouts of chemotherapy, we’d paint together and watch movies. More than not, I grew frustrated by my paintings. They didn’t seem to turn out like I imagined, but my sister would tell me, “Keep going.” It was her words that taught me to pick up the brush again. 

It was not the first (or the last) time she encouraged me not to give up so quickly.

When my hair fell out, she cut my hair and shaved my head. Halfway through, I heard the clip of the scissors behind me. I turned around to see Ava holding her own hair in her hands. My eyes widened in disbelief and hers brimmed with tears.

“Why would you do that?” I asked.

“I didn’t want you to feel alone,” she replied, still holding the chunk of her curly locks. 

When, mere days before surgery, I put together my first chapbook of poetry, “Yet, Praise,” it was her voice which kept me focused until it slowly came into fruition. 

My sister Ava is my hero. When I think of women who inspire me to be a little more kind, brave and outspoken, her name tops that list. From dog fostering to rescuing the discounted wilting plants at hardware stores, Ava consistently looks out for the ones on the margins and simply, by example, teaches others to do the same. She’s a vessel for hope and a carrier of perseverance. All of us, even our house plants, are better because of her. 

I bent down by the vase and watered the soil. Then, I lifted up the fallen stem so it leaned on the paper flower tag. I smiled. It looked better already. I dare say it smiled back at me. 

A few days later, Ava came to me excitedly, pointing at the plant, “Look at it!” We walked together toward the table and admired the resilient flowers.

They grew. And so did I.  

Has there ever been a time when you struggled with giving up? What good things have come from seasons where you chose to preserve?

Image via Raisa Zwart Photography

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