Getting a gift from the garden is common in the Summer months, but sometimes the Winter is when we need it most.
Today’s story begins with a paragraph so many of us can relate to around the holiday season, “The world was celebrating around us, but I felt apart—separate from Christmas, from the parties, the carols, the revelry. I pictured the calm scenes of shepherds and angels as disconnected from my life, as if they were a movie playing on our hospital walls. Our world was full of suffering, worry, and the threat of death.”
For many, it’s the loss of a parent, a sibling, or a friend. For me, it was delivering my daughter five days before Christmas after a month-long hospital stay, at less than a pound, after a 50% chance of survival diagnosis and a worse prognosis if she lived. Life seems a blur at times, but I remember those days, the life-saving surgery she had on New Year’s Eve, and the months in the NICU that followed, quite vividly. I especially remember that the hospital gave all the parents free pie in the cafeteria on Christmas. I don’t know why I remember that part, but my husband and I always joke, “at least we got free pie!” My daughter ended up ok after a long journey, by the way—a miracle, quite honestly. A miracle kid and pie, what could be better?
I didn’t come out quite as miraculously unscathed—like most people who have the unfortunate experience of making hard and heavy memories at a time of year that is so obvious when it arrives. But maybe that’s why I love today’s story, “Christmas Present” so much. It’s a reminder that life goes on after hard times, and that creating and tending to the life in our garden is one of the most satisfying remedies to the madness. If this season isn’t as happy for you as it seems to be for others, today’s story about a gift from the garden is to you, from me.
Discover More Stories of Healing Gardens
This story about a gift from the garden comes from our archive spanning over 30 years, and includes more than 130 magazine issues of GreenPrints. Pieces like these that inject stories of healing gardens into everyday life lessons always brighten up my day, and I hope it does for you as well. Enjoy!
The gift—and miracle—of life.
By Marie C. Vogelei
It is December, and I am haunted by the ghosts of Christmas past—of holidays when our lives were consumed by medical crises. First there was the holiday season when Jim, my husband, was seriously ill from multiple infections after extensive surgery. The following year, in an unfairly timed reprise, he had more infections and again required hospitalization.
The world was celebrating around us, but I felt apart—separate from Christmas, from the parties, the carols, the revelry. I pictured the calm scenes of shepherds and angels as disconnected from my life, as if they were a movie playing on our hospital walls. Our world was full of suffering, worry, and the threat of death.
It is December now, and the stalks of my twice-blooming iris have risen again in my Maryland garden. I found the buds weeks ago when I was putting the garden to bed.
“No, no!” I scolded them. “You’ll run out of time!”
I fretted at their coming so late in the season, worried that their optimism and confidence would be punished by the first hard frost. But just ahead of the cold breath of Winter—in the nick of time—the flowers began to open.
As I write this, one bloom sits in a vase among the Christmas decorations in my kitchen, startling and out of place beside a snow globe and an elf. Nobody’s ghost, it is clear yellow like the Sum-mer sun, as open and real as Jim, my cat of nine lives, my survivor.
Praise for life, for miracles that choose their own season, for this Christmas present—in both senses. ❖
By Marie C. Vogelei, published originally in 2018-19, in GreenPrints Issue #116. Illustrated by Christopher Reid
Do you have a similar or related story you’d like to share? Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear it!