Each summer, I take on the personae of ‘Mom the Free Gardner Lady’. Every ten days or so finds me parking in front of my daughter’s home and schlepping a large tote bag filled with trimmers, trowels, forks, flower food and weed killers up to her front porch. I spend hours pulling weeds, trimming bushes, and pruning and feeding roses–and, in the spring, planting sunflowers, which she adores.
So it’s quite likely that a recent Saturday, sunny and mild, would have found me there even if my beloved daughter weren’t a million months pregnant and at home on modified bed rest, unable even to bend, much less pull up a weed. We chatted while I worked on the flower beds. Then, finally finished and covered in thorn scratches and chigger bites, I left to make a quick run to the ATM and replenish my languishing wallet. From there I debated the best route to the gas pumps at the local Kroger. Should I travel down Main Street to the avenue and across the side road to the store, the straightest route? No, much too heavy with traffic, I decided as I pulled out of the bank’s parking lot. I turned to drive a longer but quieter route.
And from such minute decisions are often spun the slender threads on which life hangs in the balance.
As I reached the back road leading across the busy avenue to the Kroger, my phone pinged with incoming texts. Despite having left my daughter’s home not twenty minutes before, my immediate thought was, “She’s in labor!” Although the traffic signal was barely yellow, there were no cars behind me, so I stopped completely to give myself time to check the texts.
The texts weren’t from my daughter–of course not. Instead, my friend Gloria was sharing a story of having just gone window shopping at a local festival. She’d admired the bright sunflowers at a vendor’s booth, and was pleasantly surprised when the young clerk came out to hand her a free bouquet of those sunflowers. It gave her spirits such a lift, Gloria told me, making me smile and reply that I’d forward to story to my sunflower-loving daughter. Gloria’s second text mentioned that, as she’d left her home that day, she’d decided to expect a miracle. She felt the gift of sunflowers from a stranger was just that small miracle.
The light was still red as, having read her texts and briefly replied, I looked up, startled, hearing horns blaring. I watched in horror as, just up the street where I was headed, cars scattered in every direction like marbles tossed by the hand of a giant, trying to avoid a three-car pileup.
Had I not stopped to check Gloria’s texts, I would likely have been right there in the midst of that accident.
Later, arriving home, I read Gloria’s final text, which said simply that she had just felt moved to share that story with me. I responded with shaking fingers, replying that by doing so, she might very well have saved me from a very bad accident. We each felt chills, thinking of the intuition that had led her to relate the tale of such a simple moment, and me to stop and read the texts. Divine intervention, my daughter declared, when I described the whole thing to her a little later. Tell her there aren’t angels?! No way, José, she scoffed, returning to her favorite childhood saying.
I am still pondering the sequence of events that led to my being protected from harm. Gloria left her home, expecting a miracle. A young woman thoughtfully gifted a bouquet of flowers to a stranger, raising her spirits. The recipient of her gift, listening to intuition, felt moved to share that sweet story with me. I, notorious for stomping the accelerator to beat the yellow light–and who would under normal circumstances just have waited until I reached the gas station to read the text–pulled to a stop in order to check the message, and consequently was not on the road when a terrible accident occurred.
And, as a final caveat, when I reached the filling station at last after maneuvering around the accident, a lady across from me was in despair of being able to get her discount card to register at the pump. Since I’ve encountered this problem a number of times, and been shown by a kind stranger how to deal with it, I was able to demonstrate how to make her card work correctly. From there, we began to chat, as women always do, and ended up in a happy conversation about the leaves caught in my hair from my gardening adventures, the pregnant daughter, her two sons and grandchildren, my expected grandbaby….
On such small dimes does life turn: often, sadly, to sorrow, accidents and ugliness; sometimes, joyously, to protection, happiness, and the kindness shown by total strangers to one another. And, if we listen hard enough, above it all, we might hear the whispered rustle of angels’ wings.