In a disarray of discarded plants and flowerpots, a neglected, but tall and proud-looking amaryllis caught my eye. Surprised by the sight, my heart rapidly filled with emotion – first sadness and then happiness. With its sturdy, solitary stalk and two huge Christmas-red blooms, this plant reminded me of a dear friend I once had. Her name was Martha, but I knew her as Marty.
About ten years ago my daughter and I volunteered to paint fingernails at an assisted-living care center for senior citizens. Walking through those doors that day we could not know how our lives would change. It was fate. Of all the women in the room we could have helped, my daughter chose the feisty, diabetic, and wheelchair-bound Marty.
For six years, we regularly visited Marty at the center. In an attempt to make her life better, we brought her books to read and movies to watch, as well as holiday decorations to bring cheer to her room. And whenever we went on vacation, we made sure to bring back a souvenir for our friend. As many a great time we shared with her, we also endured difficult ones. Witnessing her decline from an opinionated and independent woman to a bedridden and silent one challenged our spirits, but never our commitment to her. Towards the end, we braced ourselves whenever we entered Marty’s room. One thing was for sure, though, no matter what physical condition she was in, Marty’s bright blue eyes always lit up when she saw our faces and we, in turn, always tried to smile, covering up any alarm we might have at seeing her situation.
Four years ago, in the month of November, the phone call came – Marty was gone. After hanging up the phone, I looked at the potted amaryllis bulb that sat on my kitchen counter. It was to have been Marty’s Christmas gift and my daughter and I had been eager to see the expression on Marty’s face when we presented it to her. Sadly, I picked up the plant and carried it outside and placed it amongst a pile of old flowerpots. I stood there remembering an earlier Christmas that Marty received an amaryllis from her son and how she spent the following months marveling at it. After the giant blooms faded, she had asked me to take the bulb home and replant it for her. Regretfully, I never had the opportunity to do that, because the plant, pot and all, disappeared from her room. That’s when my daughter and I decided we’d buy her a new one – one that she’ll never see.
Following Marty’s death, bad weather ensued, months passed by, and soon the plant was completely erased from my memory. Then one gorgeous early spring day, when the warm sun beckoned me out to the garden, I walked over to my garden shed. That’s when, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a patch of bright red. There in the heap of garden rejects was Marty’s Christmas gift! A magnificent red blossom, in all of its glory, was swaying in the breeze and calling out, “Don’t forget about me.”
Every year since Marty died, the amaryllis has bloomed. And today as I stand here and admire its beautiful spring offering, I can hear Marty’s soft voice say, “Isn’t that something!” Picturing Marty’s face and thinking about how she graced my life, I reply, “Yes, Marty, it most certainly is!”