It’s a mild January afternoon in Minnesota, but no one here is fooled. Daffodils and daisies, some of the earliest and cheeriest signs of spring, are months away. Plenty of subzero temperatures, sheets of ice, and piles of snow lay between here and that most wonderful time of year when winter gray gives way to spring green.
I’ve been thinking about spring flowers for a week and a half—ever since spending Christmas in Wisconsin with my family. No, Wisconsin isn’t enjoying an early spring either (though they will if the fifty-degree temps we enjoyed there stick around), but I found a cheery daisy anyway.
The Widder family Christmas was a disjointed affair this year, since my mom and dad were in the middle of transitioning one at a time from their condo to an assisted living facility nearly an hour away. A debilitating fall in October set these changes into motion: my mom spent eight weeks rehabilitating, while my dad—who suffers from memory issues and a steady decline in mobility—stayed at home with a 24/7 caregiver. My mom’s continuing need for care as she regains strength and my dad’s ongoing needs, combined with the financial realities of elder care, made the difficult decision necessary.
My siblings did the hard work to make the move happen, while Rick and I did what little we could to help during our forty-eight hours in town. One of the caregivers had boxed up the contents of my dad’s dresser, so I sorted through them to save my sister the trouble later. A large pile for Goodwill, a smattering of things for the trash, and an assorted collection of treasures—the sorts of things my dad put in his dresser once-upon-a-time because they were special or because he didn’t know where else to put them but he didn’t want to throw them away. Commemorative pins from church building projects. A pocket knife. His complete set of diplomas (with answers to many of the details I lacked for obituary writing). A giant wisdom tooth.
In this collection were a handmade Father’s Day card from me and my sister, an unsigned promise (from me or that same sister) to do better at keeping our bedroom clean, and a piece of art with my name on it. I have no memory of making the craft, but my name written in red ink in an adult’s cursive script indicates that somewhere along the way, I glued the yellow and green felt pieces over the outline of a daisy. Next to the flower is the King James text of John 14:1–6, some of Jesus’ words to his disciples on the night he was betrayed.
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
It seems the disciples were troubled that Jesus was leaving them—and they didn’t know where he was going nor why they couldn’t go with him. He comforted them with the assurance that they would be together again. He calmed their anxiety with the promise of his presence.
There’s no indication that my John 14 daisy craft was made for a particular occasion or that it was even made for my dad. I don’t know why I gave it to him, why he kept it, or what made it special enough to merit a permanent spot in his dresser, and if he even knows anymore, there’s no way he would be able to explain it. But I like to think it’s because my dad found his own particular comfort in Jesus’ promise to his disciples.
My dad, I learned as an adult, had his own struggles with anxiety—a temperament and proclivity I inherited. When I went through my own “dark night of the soul” in my mid-thirties, my dad bequeathed to me some of his well-worn ways of getting through the darkness.
Last January when my mom fell for the first time in 2019 and landed in three weeks of hospital rehab, my dad—at home with a 24/7 caregiver—was anxious. He was troubled and confused by her absence. My sister even thought my mom’s injury might have done him more harm than her. I can’t say for sure, but I doubt his shrinking memory allowed him access to his tried and true methods of fighting anxiety. It was a long three weeks for everyone.
When my mom landed herself in an even longer period of rehab this fall, my dad wasn’t anxious. Maybe it’s because he simply doesn’t have the energy for it. Maybe it’s because he can’t take in everything that’s going on around him. Or maybe it’s because he’s at peace in the promise that Jesus’ presence is nearer than it’s ever been.
I brought the decades-old felt daisy home to Minnesota, where I gave it a frame and a place on the wall—a ready reminder that spring will burst forth out of winter; that this drab old earth will be eclipsed by a radiant new one; that there will be life—without memory loss, without painful separations, without the aches and agonies of old age—there will be Life forever.
Let not your heart be troubled, dear Dad. Let not your heart be troubled, oh my soul.