Here’s the thing about tiger lilies. They grow everywhere. This time of year they seem to pop up out of nowhere when you least expect it. They grow in pretty manicured gardens, and they grow wildly in unexpected places like ditches or along the highway. They can be found on country roads or city streets.
They seem to be pretty resilient. They prefer sunlight, yet they often survive in the shade and conditions that are less than ideal.
The other day, I had a routine doctor’s appointment. As I placed the key in the ignition of my car, my phone lit up. It was a text message from my long-time friend Lorna informing me that two of our childhood friends had passed away. The night before, I received a disturbing phone call. “Mary,” Karen said in a tone of disbelief, “Rhonda died.” Rhonda was part of my circle of friends. She was one of us. She had not been sick. We sipped wine, shared a meal and laughs just the week before.
As I drove along the main road, I spotted a beautiful cluster of tiger lilies shooting out of someone’s front lawn. Then down the road there they were again adorning a bunch of trashcans and refuse waiting to be gobbled away by a sanitation truck. Once more, before reaching my destination as I looked to my left, there they were again. This sunlit burst of happy orange flowers was so beautiful I actually wished I would get a red light so I could snap a picture with the camera in my phone. With all the sad news that week, I was feeling old. I needed to feel the warmth of nature around me.
When I reached the medical building, I saw a man coming out of the accessible entrance with a walker. He walked slowly and deliberately. He had a banker’s box atop of the walker. It was obvious that he was saying goodbye to co-workers.
As I approached the front door, I made eye contact with him and recognized him. I said, “Do you remember me?” He looked at me puzzled. Then he said, “You look familiar.” I am not sure if he remembered me, but I remembered him.
“One last push,” he said, before my daughter made her way into the world. “We’re going to take her on the next contraction.” Then I heard him say, “It’s a girl.” That’s what I remember.
Several years later, when my daughter was in grade school, he was the first person I saw in the hospital elevator when my husband was rushed to the hospital after suffering a heart attack. He was only 39 years old, and I was in a state of shock.The elevator trip up to the ICU unit seemed like a trip to the moon. I was a mess. His words soothed me and calmed me down. That’s what I remember about him.
So in parting that day, I said, “Thank you for being part of my journey.” It didn’t matter whether he remembered me or not. It was a reminder that time is passing, — for him, for me, for all of us.
My mind took me back to the tiger lilies on my way home. There they were again, these impromptu messengers spreading happiness, providing a beautiful contrast to the clear blue skies. Bright orange speckled bulbs swaying in the breeze, defying any of the conditions that threatened them. That’s the thing about tiger lilies. They are resilient and remind us to keep finding a reason to find peace or beauty in our complex lives if we take the time to see them.