In 2006 my 80-year-old Aunt Jean moved from Florida to Oregon so she could be close to my family and me. For the next ten years, she was an integral part of our daily lives and all of our family holidays and celebrations. She died on October 31, 2016, a month after we celebrated her 90th birthday.
One week after she died, I had back surgery. The months that followed were incredibly stressful physically and emotionally. Jean had no children, so she appointed me as her personal representative. It fell upon me to settle her estate and sort through all of her belongings, including dozens of grocery bags that she had stashed behind the decorative screens in her bedroom and living room. These bags were crammed full of junk mail and personal correspondence, along with important legal and financial documents. I quickly realized that I would need to inspect each individual piece of paper in every bag and jam-packed drawer.
Jean had good intentions, but she made a couple of major mistakes that resulted in a drastically uneven distribution of her estate between my three brothers and me. (I ended up with one of the short sticks.)
That Christmas, a dear friend, gave me a tea towel imprinted with the statement, “There has never been a spring when the flowers forgot to bloom.” At that time, I was still in pain physically, and I couldn’t release my mental anguish long enough to look forward to feeling peaceful.
Somehow that tea towel ended up at the bottom of the pile in the back of the drawer. I forgot about it until yesterday when it just happened to make its way to the top of the stack.
I smiled gratefully as I dried dishes and reflected on the message. The knowledge that spring always follows winter has particular meaning to me this Easter. We all go through difficult times. There are bleak periods when we feel burdened and angry, and we struggle to see past our own misery. It is during these times that we have to get up every morning whether we feel like it or not and do what has to be done. We have to keep on moving forward whether our situation is fair or not, knowing full well that the outcome we are hoping for may not come to fruition.
As I look back on the last year-and-a-half, I am grateful that it is behind me. I’m thankful to my husband, children, and friends who helped me through the storm. I’m especially grateful to my two brothers who inherited the bulk of Jean’s estate due to an oversight on a beneficiary form and decided to follow their moral compass rather than the letter of the law.
Over the course of many decades, we had all managed to hurt one another. The foundation of our family had become shaky. My brothers could have kept all of the money, but they shared it with my other brother and me. I was grateful for their financial gifts, and I am especially grateful for the gift of forgiveness, for being able to give it and for being able to receive it. We are a family again, and in the end, that may be the most valuable inheritance we received from our Aunt Jean.
I am happy to be reminded that if we can trust that the flowers will never forget to bloom, then we can also believe that at the end of every struggle, every loss, and even every death, there is an opportunity for love, for grace, and for rebirth and renewal.