Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ties with Loved Ones Bloom beyond Death, as One Orchid Shows

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ties with Loved Ones Bloom beyond Death, as One Orchid Shows

Article excerpt

I don't believe in ghosts or Ouija boards or anything supernatural. But I do believe that sometimes our deceased loved ones send us messages.

My story begins the day after my grandfather's life ended, one month after his 92nd birthday. The next afternoon I answered our doorbell to greet a white orchid wrapped in cellophane, a bereavement gift compliments of my husband's mother and sister, both avid gardeners.

I had mixed emotions. Don't get me wrong, the orchid was beautiful, exquisite even. And it was a fitting tribute to my grandfather, who was a wonderful gardener in his day, once even building a lattice in his backyard to showcase his lush roses.

But I had a terrible track record with houseplants. And aren't orchids tropical plants? I've admired them at Phipps Conservatory, but those lucky devils had a team of experts caring for them. How was this lone, fragile-looking plant going to survive in my crazy household of three boys? Even if I could protect it from harm, how much water would it need?

I had a sinking feeling that water was the key to the downfall of my previous houseplants. Apparently you have to notice plants to water them. And I rarely noticed them. When I did notice them, I overwatered to compensate and ended up drowning the poor things.

When I did talk to my previous plants it was mostly to apologize for their untimely deaths. I remember my first words to my orchid being something like, "I promise to keep you alive as long as possible. Please survive. At least until my mother-in-law visits."

I carefully cut away the cellophane, set it on the window ledge in my dining room and promptly forgot about it.

After the whirlwind funeral weekend something very strange began happening. I began to notice my orchid. Not every day, but at least once a week I would see it, think of Papa and smile, and then here comes the key: I watered it, just enough.

Perhaps through Papa's intervention, I finally learned what enough meant for a plant. I remember being amazed that the flowers that looked to me like little faces lasted for weeks, until they all shriveled and floated down from their perches within days of each other. …

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