Long ago, a man planted daffodils in the medians in the parking lot behind our church — hundreds and hundreds of daffodils. They always surprise me.
Every year I wonder how many of us are left who see these flowers and remember how they got there, who planted them, or even the fact that that they haven’t always been there — that they are gifts, deliberate acts of grace planted by a slender wisp of a man with thinning white hair and clear blue eyes, who used to sit in the pews in which they sit now.
Memory is personal and not always shared, no matter how much one might wish otherwise. Memory never ages, and yet, a hundred years from now, who will thank John for his daffodils?
He always had a smile to share and a kind word that would brighten any day. That, I remember with vivid clarity.
Most of the time, however, I don’t think about John, except when all those bulbs begin to emerge from long slumber and break ground, sending their long slender green shoots up into the air and the light after a year of damp darkness, buried in the soil.
They break the surface inching forward a day at a time — an hour at a time — unnoticed at first by all. Then, after days and weeks of effort they stretch out until, miraculously they begin to bloom and announce to the world, in chaste yellow as bright as the sun, that they have returned in all their simple glory; they have risen yet again without condition, or assistance, or human involvement — another morning, another spring, another year — for us — for all of us.
In the parking lot, Vivaldi floats through the air as if cast out by sirens hidden among the trees that surround our parking space, or behind the cross high upon the gables of the church. The musicians however, all sit adjacent a defiant outdoor pulpit constructed of pine and steel nails by parishioners, what feels like years ago, but actually was only a few months ago — at the beginning of the pandemic which locked the doors of the church and pushed the congregation outside where it is safe.
There sits one with a bassoon, and next to her a violinist, and then one with an oboe, and a keyboardist, and, with hands held high and swaying as if with the siren’s call, Drew, our lover of all music, conducts, his smile, and the glimmer in his eyes unseen by the parishioners all parked in our cars or siting on our folding chairs on the pavement or in the medians in the grass.
The morning has a chill, enough for a light blanket. Yet, the sun is bright and warm, and there is a slow breeze that must form layers high above the parking lot, above the siren’s Vivaldi, far above the church roof, upon which three raptors float but only for a few moments during the beginning of his sermon, wings spread that catch the warm updrafts as Ollie reads about the messenger beside the rolled door of the open tomb — the “young man dressed in white” — “clothing as white as snow.”
And people gather in the warm sun and listen — some with eyes closed, others in still warmth and rapt attention. A subtle joy that seems to have been launched on the wings of music, and the breeze, and the bright sun with it’s warm embrace, distills the morning and promises better times ahead, that we are loved, and we are never far from his arms.
I look around at the people and then the yellow daffodils at my feet, and I smile. A simple flower returns — like a rainbow. A promise is kept — with a pure simplicity — an act of grace and rebirth.
Thank you, John. We remember.