Earth Notes: The Poppies

MYSTERIOUS POPPIES — Were they a sign from my mother that Jason was okay, safe, at peace?

MYSTERIOUS POPPIES — Were they a sign from my mother that Jason was okay, safe, at peace?

By Susan Meeker-Lowry

This past May, my oldest son, Jason, passed away unexpectedly. He was 36 and has two young boys. I’ve experienced painful losses — my mother died of cancer when she was only 53, younger than I am now, my father died after suffering a series of stokes shortly after I moved to Fryeburg over 17 years ago, and my beloved grandmother, who lived almost until her 94th birthday. My younger sister suffered a traumatic brain injury that totally changed our lives when she was just 21. But nothing, absolutely nothing, was as painful as the death of my son.

Jason was a hard worker. For years, he worked on an organic dairy farm in Vermont, where he was born and lived his whole life. He had his own logging business until about four years ago. He loved hard, physical labor and he loved working outside. He was kind, compassionate, a real softie. And, he was troubled and took life’s knocks and losses especially hard.

After my mother died, she sent us messages of hope and love by “planting” hollyhocks, one of her favorite flowers, in places where they had never grown before, and in white, not red or pink, which were what she planted when she was alive. I never forgot these signs that her spirit was still with us. And I trusted that’s exactly what they were too. When we’re open to the ways of the natural world, these kinds of things happen, which is part of the magic and mystery of love and life.

So after Jason passed, I asked my mother for a sign that he was okay, that he was with her and Daddy and others who have passed who love him. I trusted she would find a way to let me know.

In my garden live a decent-sized patch of Oriental poppies. I planted them when I first moved here and each spring they bloom vibrantly for their short lives, then go dormant. This year, the patch was big and healthy, and the first three buds unfurled into huge, gorgeous blooms. As so often happens, it was predicted to rain, lots, the next day so, knowing how fragile the flowers are I knew the rain would knock the petals to the ground. I took my camera and snapped some pictures before that happened. And it did rain, almost an inch and it came down heavy. But, the poppies held strong. Even after the rain, they were just as fresh as the day they opened. And a few more buds unfurled adding to their number. So now, there were five or six huge, brilliant blossoms, vibrant with color and buzzing with fat bumblebees. Again the rain came. Again it was heavy. And the poppies — all of them — remained fresh. And more opened until there were 10, 12 or more all open at once, the first of them as fresh as the newest. As anyone who grows Oriental poppies knows, they are short-lived even under the best of circumstances. This was definitely not normal.

Then one evening as I was walking around the perimeter of the garden as the sun was beginning its descent behind the mountains, I found myself standing in front of those beautiful poppies, again full of wonder that they were still so fresh and beautiful, and the realization hit me like a bolt of lightening: the long-lived poppies was the sign from my mother that Jason was okay, safe, at peace. Tears came, as they so often did (and do). Tears of pain and love, and in this case, tears of gratitude and relief. The next day, all the poppies started to drop their petals, as if they were just waiting for me to understand my mother’s message.

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