Growing up in Texas means watching the wildflowers bloom every spring. The bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes carpet the grassy areas along the highways. Snap dragons, lilies, and narcissus flowers fill front yards throughout the city. Each year the flowers appear and each year I find hope amidst another anniversary of death.
In my seventeen years of life, five people I love have died. It started with an uncle with a rare, undetected heart disease. Then my grandma lost a long battle with cancer. Another uncle died in a freak four-wheeler accident. A best friend’s plane crashed in Alaska where her family lived as missionaries. Finally, my grandpa died after a long and love-filled life.
Fear is a natural result of losing five people. When you begin grieving at the age of seven, the idea of people dying becomes part of your everyday life. It’s the extra “I love you” hollered out the door because you just never know. It’s the hug that lingers just a little longer and presses just a little deeper because it could be the last.
I’ve always watched the wildflowers with a sense of longing. They embody the hopefulness I crave. Their existence can end with the stomp of a boot or the grab of a small child’s hand, but they continue floating on the wind and listening to the rustling of grass swaying. For the last ten years I have dreamed steadily of what it would be like to live without fear.
Death and grief are promised to me by the brokenness of this world. I do not want to mourn or grieve ever again. Five times should be enough. But I do not have a choice. Disease and cancer ravage bodies and I am powerless to stop them. Fear is one of my greatest adversaries.
Looking at the wildflowers and watching them bloom challenges me to draw up a better battle plan. God initiates all of the natural phenomena that support their life; if he gives so abundantly to the tiniest, transient flower, how much more will he provide for me?
Fear does not keep its hands to itself. It tells me that if I choose to love someone they will inevitably disappear without cause or reason. They will be gone because that’s how this broken world works. Fear asks me if love is even worth it; people disappear after I invest in them. Fear tells me to be cautious with my love.
Flowers show me the opposite can be true. Their strength isn’t what holds me captive. They are weak and they are small. Growth in the wild is willful; it is a struggle. Yet, each spring they bloom again, proving that hope is worth it.
Every morning I wake up and choose to love people. I choose to invest in lives even though I know full well they may be ripped out of my hands. If I have the passion and the ability to make that choice each day, then when necessary I will find the strength within me to survive death and its aftermath yet again.
I do not want grief, but I trust in God. Trust validates my fear and challenges it simultaneously. Trusting God reminds me that Jesus mourned Lazarus. He wept. Trust in God is a whisper that says, “Peace child. I know that fear. I can name it, and I can calm it.” My fear is real, but it is nothing compared to the realness of knowing a God who conquered death.
I wonder if Jesus smiled at the wildflowers like I do now. I wonder if his grief was calmed by their beauty too. The wildflowers show me how to trust God. He provides so much for them and they give back the only thing they can: hope.
Success for me isn’t finding an answer or a cure for grief. Nothing here can satisfy the longing I feel to see my family. Success is knowing that I have not been promised understanding and choosing to exist and endure anyways. It is finding and fighting for hope.
Success is a sense of camaraderie and an understanding that we need not mourn nor fear alone. It is choosing to love people with all of the fervor I can muster. It is trusting that God provides for my every need. It is leaning into the short time we have here and engaging.
Success, for me, is becoming a wildflower.
Cover image by Alexander Andrews.