A Fist Full of Daffodils
Once upon a time, long, long ago, there lived the sweetest grandma that ever walked upon the earth. She was tall with long, slender arms and legs, and even though she had been poor all of her life, she had an elegance and grace that caused her to carry herself like royalty. Her spirit was gentle and she was kind to a fault, or at least the world would perceive it as a fault. But to her firstborn granddaughter, there was no fault in her. She was the most wonderful person in the whole world. And this child knew that this grandma of hers loved her with an incredible love that she knew from no one else.
As this little girl grew, she learned the secret of her grandmother's strength and wisdom. The grandma was old and gray and moved slowly, often stopping to rub sweet-smelling liniment into her joints as she talked about some kind of 'ritis and rheumatism that seemed to cause her great pain. But in spite of this, each night as the child snuggled into her grandma's warm, cozy bed, she watched as this sweet, old lady slowly lowered herself to the floor beside that bed and talked softly to Someone who was not there. Or at least, the little girl couldn't see Him.
The child lived for the times when she could go visit her grandma who lived in a shack with no running water. She loved everything about that old house that had only one room; with flowered wallpaper covering every wall and with linoleum on the floor. She loved the smell of the kerosene that permeated those walls, for it reminded her of her grandma standing next to that stove making pancakes with chipped beef gravy for her. No breakfast ever has tasted as delicious as that, because the child and the grandma would sit and talk and laugh and eat it together, and that breakfast tasted like the love that they shared.
Then the grandma would sit in her rocker and the child would climb up on her lap, and the grandma would read the comics to the child. Oh, how they laughed together! Scamp was their favorite, and the grandma often read that one several times. One day the grandma told the child that soon she would be able to read those comics for herself. The little girl wondered at that possibility, not knowing how precious were those days when grandma alone held the magic of unscrambling those many letters on the pages of those colorful Sunday comics.
They would do chores together. They would feed the chickens and work in the garden side by side. They would take out the pot with the lid- the one that sat next to the bed- and they would empty it together into the woods. They would go out into the yard and pick strawberries or blueberries, and then they would stir up a shortcake or roll out a piecrust on that old floured dough board. They would go out to the pump and fill a big metal bucket with fresh well water, and then they would carry it together into the house.
Sometimes the water was poured into another bucket that stayed next to the sink, and they would ladle out some to drink with that long handled metal cup that stayed inside the bucket. The water was always so sweet and cool. But other times they heated the water that was in the bucket from the well on the kerosene stove and used it to wash the dishes or the clothes.
Washing clothes was a special treat, as grandma always let the child play with those wonderful smelling Ivory Soap flakes. Sometimes the child would get a pot filled with warm water and Ivory Soap flakes of her own, and in it she would wash her dolly's clothes, mimicking everything that her grandma did in the big tub. She loved to watch her grandma crank that wringer, pulling the clothes through to get some of the water out after they had been rinsed. Grandma always ran the little girl's baby's clothes through that wringer as well, as though they were the most important thing in the world.
But the best part was hanging the clothes on the clotheslines out in the yard, pulling wooden clothespins from a bag that looked like a tiny dress that the grandma had made. The sheets were the most fun as they flapped in the breeze, and the little girl never got tired of running through those sheets head first, feeling the cool freshness of them hit her face. The grandma never stopped her, even though surely sometimes that child soiled those clean sheets. Grandma never cared, for this little girl was way more important to her than clean sheets, and the child knew it.
The grandma had this incredible kind gentleness, and it showed in everything she did. She taught her granddaughter to love every little creature that God had made, and to only hurt them if they were about to cause her harm. Many a time the child watched as the grandma would cup her hands and scoop up a cricket or a granddaddy-long-legs that had wandered into the house and then carefully carry it outside and let it go.
One spring, a momma skunk snuck in under the house to have her babies. They tiptoed around the house that summer, being extra careful not to disturb them. The child and the grandma peered under the house quietly and whispered of how cute they were. The house never got sprayed with that ugly perfume, so gentle were the loving movements of that old grandma.
Each year at Easter, the little girl would get to go visit her dear grandma for spring break. There are pictures of the two of them together outside next to the daffodils. Huge flowerbeds of pale yellow daffodils. The little girl always had on a pretty Easter dress with a matching hat, although you can't make out the colors because the photos are in black and white. The little girl wonders as an adult where those pretty dresses came from, for there was no money for such things. But she was wearing them, just the same.
But the memory that is the most bittersweet is the memory of their parting. The little girl always cried and sobbed each time she had to leave her grandma's house. The grandma would always hold the child close and stroke her hair and whisper sweet things into her ear. But the little girl had a terrible fear; a terror that she never could give words to, and even the grandma did not know what it was. She was terrified that her grandma would die before she got back there to be with her again. She cried for herself, and what would become of her if she lost her grandma and would find herself all alone. She cried for what life would be without this incredible love.
But Easter was special, because the grandma always had a parting gift for this child whom she loved. A gift to comfort her. She would go out into her garden and cut a big fistful of her beautiful daffodils, wrap the stem ends in a water-soaked paper towel, and then put those wet stems into a little plastic bag which she tied together with a rubber band. The child as an adult remembers someone else fussing about the waste and the bother, but the grandma never paid them any mind. She just thrust that fist full of beautiful fragrant daffodils into the hands of this crying child whom she loved so much as she was being whisked away. And the little girl cried into those sweet daffodils on that bus all the way home.
Is it any wonder that this child at age eleven ran to Jesus and trusted Him with her whole heart? She already knew Him through the love of her grandmother, and she wanted Him for her own. The Lord let this grandma live on earth until this little girl grew to have children of her own. And then, at almost ninety years old, God called her home. That little girl has missed her grandma every day for almost twenty-eight years now, and stills cries for her often. Today, she needs her so badly. But the Lord comforts her, and she knows that they will be together again soon, rejoicing around the throne of God.
A huge box of tissues is now empty. I have an important meeting at one o'clock this afternoon, and I'm afraid that I am going to show up looking like death warmed over. I should go and put some wet tea bags on my eyes. But first I'm going to go out into my garden, cut a fist full of pale yellow daffodils, wrap the stem ends in a wet paper towel, put the stems into a little plastic bag, and tie it all up with a rubber band.