A Gash Transplanted, Beauty Unfurls

“I haven’t seen them bloom yet. I don’t know what color they’ll be,” she said. Fragile velvety African violet plants were balanced in the hands of a fragile, soft-cheeked grandma from my church. “Would you like some?” Yes, please. I was honored to have two of them.

After decades in a home that they built, she was packing up, moving to a retirement home several miles away. In this master gardener’s hands, delicate slips of African violets were sliced off healthy plants, re-potted into fresh dirt, and grown to large producing plants. A glance at her window sills over the years had always revealed African violets bursting with deep purple, light violet, and even buttery yellow blossoms.

This athletic grandma bicycled for hundreds of miles each summer, hosted tea parties for local girls, mentored countless of us younger women at church, and filled her backyard with sunflowers and blooming plants of all kinds. Once a seamstress at a prestigious Grand Avenue wedding shop, even her retirement days have been filled with word-of-mouth projects and lush silken wedding gowns by the dozens.

Years passed; age creeped up; bicycle spills and family health took its toll. The garden grew smaller, the bike trips shorter, and family health concerns grew. Through it all, she blesses me by her honesty and transparency, by her marriage, and by her love for God.

In her empty kitchen that day, we talked and cleaned together. I stood on tall counters and washed out cabinets. Old fashioned lemon oil soap scented my hands and made my fingers slippery, as I maneuvered on the footstool.

I love this woman, this friend. She teaches me so much. In Sunday School each week, I watch her and her husband sitting beside each other, sharing a Bible, gently helping jackets on and off, speaking respectfully and warmly of each other.

In the kitchen there, and throughout this last year, my grandma friend has spoken of God’s faithfulness and new-morning mercies. Familiar hymns are second nature to her, giving voice to emotions and prayers.

The cabinets were soon clean. The woodwork wiped down, and the insides washed out. We hugged and walked towards the door. The empty house echoed slightly; imprints in the carpet showed where familiar furniture once stood; and my friend’s husband was waiting to drive them both to their new home.

Two African violets, beautiful, fragile, growing in new pots came with me to my car. Gently placing them in the bottom of my car, I drove gingerly home, careful not to injure these plants from my dear friend and realizing that these may be precious mementos sooner than I think.

For two weeks, the African violets have been adjusting to my home, sitting in sun-splashed spots in my kitchen. Just this weekend, I squealed to see blooms slowly unfurling from the lighter green leaf plant. Clusters of tiny white/yellow blossom balls are uncurling and starting to open towards the light, their final color and splendor yet to be seen.

New life growing from the destruction of a sliced gash. Beauty in new dirt, in a new pot. Beauty as they turned towards the light. Beauty slowly unfurling, oblivious to all but the Light.

Who is someone in your life that unfurls beauty to you? Who points you toward the Light? Write a quick comment or post about them and link to it here.

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  1. Anonymous on November 14, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Beautiful, Jen. A beautiful, moving tribute to an extraordinary woman after God's own heart. Thank you for honoring her in such a loving, eloquent piece.
    Treasuring Christ, Lee Burtman

  2. Jennifer Dougan on November 14, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    Thank you, Lee! She is a lovely gracious woman, isn't she? I'm glad you stopped by.


  3. cabinart on November 15, 2011 at 2:44 am

    Awww, that is sad and sweet at the same time. What a wonderful discipler she has been.

    I love African violets and used to have "zillions". Then we moved to a house without good north-facing windows and they slowly all croaked. Did she tell you to water them from the bottom? And to use African violet plant food? And if you cut a leaf, suspend it in water, it makes itty-bitty baby leaves on the stem?

    Sorry. I get carried away sometimes. Lovely story, and lovely mementos. I hope she is moving to a place where you can visit!

  4. Kateri on November 29, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    What a beauiful word picture of a lovely woman. Thanks for sharing!

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