Sunflowers

Screen Shot 2014-02-12 at 4.05.15 pmRecently a close friend of mine lost her brother in a tragic car accident, which is a terrible thing for anyone to have to live through.

There will never be any words that I could say to her to make it hurt any less and the only thing that I could ever do for her is hug her, be there for her and pray for her. I really wish I could do more. I can’t speak from experience but I imagine that her pain would be very different to mine because of the shock factor and the sheer sudden-ness of it all.

Because when we lost my Dad, he was already very sick so even though I didn’t allow myself to think “what if” very often, it was always something that hung around in the back of my mind. Then when the cancer started to grip him more and he became noticeably sicker – that thought then started to creep further and further into my conscious mind, which was – in a sense – some kind of preparation I suppose.

Sadly, my friend simply wasn’t afforded any of that. She was given no time to say goodbye, no warning and her brain wasn’t given months (or weeks) to mentally prepare for the shock. Her world changed in an instant and her heart, emotions and brain were literally thrown in the deep end and told “COPE” or else.

I caught up with that friend last week, it was the first time I had seen her since the dreadful passing of her brother. On my way to the restaurant, I was praying for her (like I do for all of my friends) and the thought occurred to me that I should buy her some flowers for no reason other than to say: “You are loved”.

It was also exactly 2 months since losing her brother and I didn’t want to make her focus too much on that but wanted her to know that she means something to me and flowers seemed like the perfect way to do it. So I walked into the shop and started chatting with the florist as I admired the many bunches of bright colours that surrounded me. I was clearly overwhelmed for choice so the lady then asked me if she could help me to make a decision.

She asked me what the occasion was so I told her that it was an anniversary for my friend and left it at that. The florist got to work bringing me bright bunches of gerberas and carnations and roses, which were all pretty but none of them felt “quite right”.

Then suddenly my eyes went to a bunch of sunflowers that were wrapped in red paper over in the back corner so I walked over and picked them up excitedly. Noticing this the florist said: “They’re nice aren’t they but they’re not really what you’re looking for. How about this bunch they are $5 cheaper too and much more cheery”. I glanced at them and agreed that were certainly more exuberant but I was still strangely drawn to the sunflowers and just couldn’t explain it?

Maybe it was the red paper around them that I liked, or maybe it was because I LOVED sunflowers when I was 18? Maybe it was bringing back memories of the quilt cover and curtains that I had appliquéd with sunflowers to decorate my very first flat when I left home?

Whatever it was – I KNEW that the sunflowers were the ones that were coming with me that day. I HAD to have them and there was no talking me out of it. So I paid for them and starting walking toward the restaurant where my friend was waiting.

I walked in and handed them to her saying: “I’m sorry if sunflowers aren’t your thing but I really needed to get these for you and I just can’t explain it any better than than that. It was more of a compulsion that anything but you know how impulsive I can be so I figure you’d understand.”

I waited for her response CONVINCED that she was going to laugh at me and tell me what a loon I was but instead, she smiled and thanked me.

The after we’d sat down at our table, she pulled out her phone to show me a photo that she just needed to show me. It was a photo that she took the day that she arrived home from her brother’s funeral and she told me that it would blow my mind.

She was right.

This photo was the evidence of something that she’d begun before receiving that phone call that changed her life forever. It was a photo of the sunflowers that she’d planted in her front garden that she thought she’d never see but they had bloomed in memory of her brother whilst she was attending his funeral and they were standing proud and tall waiting for her to get back home to admire them. I was almost lost for words. Amazed.

But I will say this: I refuse to put this down to mere coincidence because I simply wouldn’t have gotten to the place where I am right now if it weren’t for the knowledge that God is present even in the seemingly small and insignificant details of our lives both lately and even when I refused to acknowledge it.

With all the hurt, pain, lies and backstabbing that I’ve experienced in these past few months I can honestly say that He has brought me through just like He promised He would when I had thrown myself down at his feet in desperation. Never will He leave me, never will He forsake me and for that – I am truly grateful.

Dear 17 year old me..

 

Dear 17 year old me,

You will eventually learn to like your name. You will never love it but you will one day actually tell people your real name when they ask. You think it’s funny now when you tell people it’s Beryl and giggle at their surprised faces, but it will get old fast.

So, do you see those people that you’re sharing the school playground with? Yeah, well you don’t have to be friends with all of them after school finishes for good next year. Some of them you will lose touch with and you won’t care at all, but others will always hold a special place in your heart and you will reconnect with them when you’re all grown up. They will mean more to you then than they do now because age brings new perspectives.

And your parents? You think they’re old and don’t understand you but you really need to know just how much they * do* love you. I mean REALLY love you. So much more than you could ever realise. One day you will have children of your own and only then will you actually “get” it.

After you leave school, you will move a long way from home because you think you know better than anyone but guess what? You don’t.

You will get yourself into some mighty fine messes and your parents will dig you out every.single.time because they love you that much. You are stubborn though and it will take you a long time to realise this and thank them for it.

After spending another 2 years doing some really stupid stuff like jumping from job to job and hanging out with the wrong crowd you will eventually tire of the rebellious lifestyle.  But do you remember the story about the prodigal son in the bible? Yeah, well good, because that’s kinda who you become.

You will eventually go home with your tail between your legs and move home again until you get back on your feet. And your parents take you in with open arms and love on you and encourage you to right your broken relationship with Jesus. It will be the best thing that you will ever do.

Your Dad will teach you that if you have God in your life; anything else is just icing and that you need to look to Jesus for happiness because a man will never provide what only God can.

He will teach you that all men and women are flawed by their human-ness and will ultimately fail you at one time or another because of this, but that God will never let you down.

You will never forget this and there will be times in your life that you hold fast to this teaching because people will let you down but you will only be disappointed – not destroyed.

You will marry and it won’t always be smooth sailing, but you chose to put your hope in God so you’ll survive every storm intact.

You will have 3 children and they will bless you, frustrate you and complete you all at once.

But it won’t be easy. Two of your children will be boys and they will both have autism. You will fall apart at first but surprise yourself by picking yourself up and carrying on despite your heartbreak and lack of faith in yourself.

You will lose friends once the news gets out and it will hurt, but all will not be lost because much better and more loyal friends will replace the void that they left.

You will experience great loss in the death of your beloved Dad, great heartache in watching your children struggle and great pain as you endure a lot of personal health issues but you will survive them all and come out a stronger person at the other side.

Eventually, you will learn that you can find happiness and beauty in the small everyday things if you just stop long enough to notice them.

Autism will give you the ability to appreciate things that other people take for granted and bless you with the desire to be a better parent.

One day, you’ll read this letter back and you’ll smile, you’ll laugh and you’ll wipe away stray tears that inevitably fall, but you will know that you have done the best that you can with that which you have been given.

And you will continue to rejoice through both hard times and good because you KNOW that life is what you make of it.

Love 37-yr-old you xxx