The Rose of Sharon plant holds a special memory and lesson for me on Kelly’s Creek in the Georgia mountains. The blooms turned soft faces toward the brightness of a July sun as Mama scooted the clothespin bag along a tightly stretched wire. She pinned up the last of the laundry then went back inside the house to check on Dad.
His health was failing and most of his days were spent in his arm chair in the corner of the living room. Traditional Knapp work boots sat in the corner beside him as he waited for an ingrown toenail to heal, which never did. The doctor removed the toe. Clogged leg veins blocked healing blood flow. We drove him to the hospital twice a day for strong antibiotic treatments. Each time he begged not to go. “They are burning me up with medicine.” He only got worse and depended on a walker to slowly get around.
I took my turn spending the night with our aging parents. Mama and I sat in the living room, watching out the window as a full moon began its journey over deep green foliage dispelling the present darkness. I asked, “Do you think man has walked on the moon?” She said, “Why would a’body wanna do that? Your Daddy said they left a junk car up there. I hope they parked it in gear; it might coast off on us. Granny Lou said a man was put up there for burning brush on Sunday. See his smoke in the face of the moon?”
Dad’s voice broke our conversation from the rear bedroom. “Cleo, I want to get up and kneel down and pray.” Raising her voice so he could hear, she said, “No, you ain’t. We can’t get you back in th’ bed: just pray where you are.”
A second request was made: “I feel lower than HIS feet; I wanta get up and kneel down.” The sound of his straight chair moving on the floor told me he had managed to get up without any assistance.
I neared his room, but stopped short to listen. A humble heart poured forth simple words. The house was filled with Divine presence. Reality is touchable. Reality is Christ, the secret inside. Dad interceded for his family and friends with a sure value of each one. Two wills were joined together that none should perish. Not once did he ask for healing nor try to persuade God to change HIS mind. It was all about others. There was a moment of golden silence. I heard and felt love on its knees.
The next day we prepared for another trip to the hospital and more “burn me up medicine.” He slowly moved down the wheel chair ramp built by neighbors. Loosing his hands from the cold metal walker, he placed them on the banister in a lingering fashion. The setting sun streaked bright rays across earthen fields.
Dad learned by watching the soil. We too, are dust of the earth. With a long sigh he seemed to loose plough lines in his mind. Dim eyes rose above a small patch of tasseling corn as he focused on the ancient hills that gave him birth. Harvest was near; he was looking beyond.
A humming bird needled sweet nectar from the Rose of Sharon blooming in the yard. We watched as it flew home. Dad said, “This time I won’ be back.” My head denied his words: my heart knew the truth. In July of 1997, we gathered at the hospital. Mama did not grasp what was happening as she was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. I was sorta glad for the cloak of protection. Dad passed on to his reward, July 12.
Aunt Mary was older than Dad, her only brother. She came from nearby Scaly Mountain to Hunter’s Funeral Home in Clayton, GA for visitation. She was a strong tower and support for Dad all his life. Feebly, she approached casket side. Placing warm hands on cold ones, she said, “Jim, my brother, I told you to wait until I could go with you, but you couldn’t. I will be along soon. You beat me to heaven.”
The funeral was over. The preacher called Dad a peacemaker, and he was. The graveside dirt was covered with plastic green grass. The casket rested above a hole in the Head of Tennessee Baptist cemetery that could never hold Dad.
I thought about the beautiful Rose of Sharon plant in my parent’s yard with purple faces turned towards the light, and how the hummingbirds filled their need, then flew home, just like Dad.
The writer of this Article, The Rose of Sharon Plant, Barbara Woodall is the author of It’s not my Mountain Anymore and A Time For All Seasons. Both can be found on her Web Site, It’s Not My Mountain Anymore
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