The Rose

I’m one of those offbeat people who think a Christmas card isn’t complete unless you stuff a heartfelt letter or perhaps a comical poem inside. It’s been my modus operandi most of my adult life. I know it probably annoys the heck out of some of my friends and family who have a hard time deciding whether to round-file it or read it on the off chance that it might come up in conversation, but a tradition once begun is hard to abandon. A few years ago I actually did take a break. This year I’m back at it. Here’s why … and, not surprisingly, here’s the letter.

“My heart to yours. Your heart to mine. Love is a light that shines from heart to heart.” (John Denver)

The long road to this year’s Christmas letter began last spring when a fellow writer said we ought to be journaling during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic for posterity’s sake. Who better than a couple of regular gals with a gift for words to tell it like it is/was for the masses? I agreed but never followed through. The words just wouldn’t come. Now suddenly – after all the laugh-out-loud jokes about how slowly time has passed – we are actually nearing the end of this cruel year. And I finally know what I want to say.

Looking back, I fared pretty well when the crisis first made home the safest place to be. As a retiree, it was all about stocking up on food and household essentials, hunkering down with the person I love the most, and immersing myself in cherished projects. Then spring came, and the dependable beauty of my rose garden kept me going through the summer. Never have I been more grateful for every promising bud and breathtaking blossom.

Too soon, though, the garden went dormant. Every day since, I’ve felt myself sinking. The surging pandemic, the merry-go-round of hateful politics and gut-wrenching division, the extended isolation from family and friends, and a handful of non-Covid deaths and health misfortunes in my personal circle collectively beat me down into near hopelessness. Even the encouraging announcement of vaccines didn’t seem to lift me up.

But just the other day, something finally pried open the corner of my heart where despair was growing. Like little wisps of smoke from a flickering candle, the hopelessness began to escape.

What was responsible? Why, it was a rose! A rose in freezing weather. A rose as big as my hand with petal upon petal spilling into a perfect sphere. A rose so fragrant that if you close your eyes, you would swear you were out in the garden in springtime. A rose specially preserved to last for months. I never even knew this was a possibility, let alone expected to possess one.

And who was responsible? Why, the dearest friend a person could ever hope to have. I’m not sure she imagined how much the rose would mean to me, although I have no doubt she went out of her way to get it. That’s her nature – endlessly kind, unapologetically generous, spreading love as if it was fairy dust, a true angel on Earth.

Which brings me to the real point of this story. It wasn’t the rose that climbed into my heart to ease my despair. It was my friend.

I so needed this gentle reminder. A kind heart — mine to yours, yours to mine — has always been the way to survive troubled times. I forgot for a while, but I’m more of a believer now than ever.

Believe with me, won’t you? There’s never been a better time to shine our lights and watch hope bloom.

Yours Never More Truly, Laurie Samsel Olson

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