An elderly woman in my congregation is ill just now and on a bright spring day I went to visit her at the local hospital. I parked my car and made my way along the sidewalk toward the main entrance when I stopped short. What I saw took my breath away: right there beside the parking gate amid concrete and asphalt was a glorious blaze of colour!
I had my prayer book in my hand and I really wanted to see L. but first I had to stop to oooh and ahhh over the red tulips and pink hyacinth. Bulbs always look best when they are tightly packed together like that, a little community standing in solidarity against the changeable spring weather. Even the traffic island was overflowing with daffodils and tulips! Someone went to a lot of trouble for this, I thought to myself. Two carefully positioned plaques told me these flowers were planted in memory of Dick Freeborough and Mags Shorey. Yes, this was indeed a carefully planned and tended garden.
How could I have missed such an incredible display all those other times, I wondered? I have been in and out of this hospital for more than ten years and never noticed it. Beauty was right there in front of me and I didn’t even see it.
Perhaps I had never been by the garden at just the right time, I thought. Perhaps in the summer I hurried by to avoid the blazing sun. Perhaps in the fall it looked muddy and brown. And in the winter, who can blame me for rushing from my car into the warmth of the front doors?
Yes, perhaps that’s it. It is like those families I meet who are celebrating the birth of a child and want to reconnect with the church after a long absence. Or those who begin serving the community with new vigour once their nest is empty. Seasons change. We change. What we had never seen before suddenly becomes clear. Even if was right under our nose the whole time.
I decided not to waste my time on regret. Instead, I embraced the gift of delight from that brilliant little garden. I stood on the sidewalk and marveled. I smiled to myself, and took a deep breath, and carried on to see L. in her room on the fourth floor. I am sure my visit with her was richer and more full of life because of my new discovery.
Thank heaven for changing seasons and the gifts that they bring.