The June Grand Valley Rose Show had ended, and as usual, hundreds of roses now just past their peak of perfection had to leave the Frederik Meijer Gardens conference rooms. It always seems like such a waste to simply discard these prize winning roses that have been so meticulously groomed and pampered and photographed and fawned over. But I am fortunate to show roses with such a generous group of exhibitors. When I volunteered to take the flowers to the nursing home, they all helped me to load the roses into buckets instead of tossing them into the trash cans.
My husband Bill and I hurried to pack the back of his car with six 5 gallon buckets of big roses and several coffee cans filled with the miniatures and minifloras. In our rush to get the flowers out of the sweltering heat and back into air conditioning, we forgot the empty water bottles that Joan had offered to us to use as disposable- nursing- home- safe vases. But determined to create the give away bouquets anyway, I picked up some red party cups and started shortening the long stems and dividing up the beautiful bounty that had now completely overwhelmed my dining room table.
I sorted and clipped and filled cups, but long past midnight, I was still working away. Four storage bins, 40 solo cups and over 200 cut stems later, I was finally finished.
Our cat Titania stopped and smelled the roses as she inspected my work. I swear that she looked up and smiled at me. The roses were now approved for delivery.
The next morning, I packed the bins in my car and drove to the Ely Manor Nursing Home in Allegan, Mi. The staff people there were eager to help distribute the roses and found a cart to load the bins unto. As I rolled the cart through the nursing home the smell of roses floated down the hallways behind me. I stopped at an open doorway and poked my head in. A woman was lying on her bed by the window. “Would you like some roses?” I asked. “Yes” she answered sadly, “But don’t have any money”. “Well these roses are free!” “Free?!” She said. “I will take two!” “How about a bouquet of five?” I said, as I handed her a cup of loveliness. “They are so beautiful!” She crooned. “These are all really for me?” “Yes” I replied. “I’m the Pastor of the Presbyterian Church, and these are from the Grand Valley Rose Show in Grand Rapids this past weekend. They are a gift to you.” “Let’s put them in the window in the light!” She said. As I left the room, her smile was brighter than the roses now glowing in the sunlight in a place of honor on her window ledge.
Further down the hallway, the staff person told me to bring a bouquet into one man’s room. As I set the cup down his rolling table tray, I noticed that there were two trophy winning blooms in this particular group. So I made a comment to the blank faced man sitting in the semi darkness with his blanket. “These are award winning roses! They won, and they are a gift to you!” The man straightened up a little taller in his chair. “I won an award!” he said with a tone of confidence. “I WON!” he pointed at the flowers whose very presence verified his idea of his life’s great accomplishment. His face was no longer blank. I left him nodding and smiling at me.
As the cart grew emptier, the spirit in air at Ely Manor was getting more festive as the rose smell found new corners to fill. The staff were grabbing the blooms two bouquets at a time and delivering them like Santa’s elves, calling out “Roses! Free Roses!” as they danced across the hallway and dashed into rooms. I stopped to snap a picture of one delighted resident who had picked out a bouquet with “That Big Pink One!” Her beautiful purple and pink shirt was the perfect backdrop for the rainbow of color that graced her hands.
As I was standing there in the hallway with the cart, wondering which rooms were still left to visit, one of the staff stopped me and asked for a cup that didn’t have any water in it, but that smelled good. As I searched for the best group to give, the staff person explained that this particular resident was completely blind, and that the last time we had brought over a bouquet of show roses for her, she kept accidentally knocking it over and spilling the water everywhere. Picking out a fine group, I handed a cup filled with highly scented roses but no water to the kindly faced woman in her wheelchair. She held the blooms up to her face and deeply inhaled the rich rose perfume. She leaned back with a huge smile on her face. “IT SMELLS LIKE JUNE!” She said delightedly. And there in her face were the images of the roses of her memory, now brought back clearly to her mind by the flowers in the cup in her hands. Indeed. It did smell like June.
May all of the days of all of your June’s now past be long in your memory as you stop to smell all of the roses in your own life.
Peace and Roses,