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For Your Marriage

Dennis and Mary Jo Weiss have been married for more than 30 years. They write about a shared love of nature, prayer, and their children and grandchildren from their home in Hamburg, New York.

The December Rose

Just last week my phone gave that little jingle that indicates “you have a text” and when I opened it, I saw a picture of a cute little flower in a bud vase with the message, “the December rose.” It was from our daughter, Cara, showing me how her birthday gift looked on her kitchen table.

Sometimes a simple tradition within the family can have a deeper and more lasting meaning, and so it is with “the December rose.” A number of years ago it became a special gift between mother and daughter, but its symbolism for me extends to other family members as well.

For many years, we had small red rose bushes along the driveway of our home.

They always seemed to do so well in May, each bush filling with lovely buds that matured to proudly display their beauty for all to see. Then in the heat of the summer, the bushes would become spindly and sparse, offering only a small bud here and there that would quickly bloom and then die as if someone were hurrying it along. In fall, they usually made a come-back with the cooler weather, and it was then that I would enjoy watching for and cultivating Cara’s birthday rose.

Sometimes by mid-November, things would not be looking good for the harvest of a rose several weeks later. This may surprise some people, but Buffalo, New York has been known to have some pretty significant snows before the calendar reads winter!

I sometimes had to get out there in the early part of a storm, and rescue my buds from the harsh elements. Then I had to coax them lovingly to bloom in time for Cara’s birthday. There were several years when Dennis wanted to prepare the bushes for the winter by trimming them back, but he knew never to do so until I was ready to harvest the December rose.

So what meaning do I find in the cultivating of the December rose? You see, it has come to symbolize that my love as a mother shall always be there, shall always await the beauty of God’s grace to blossom in the lives of our children. It is my promise to them that they have in their lives someone who will believe in them even when this world would give up on them. In fact, this world we live in is very good at passing us by if we are too slow to bloom. I have seen that not only in my own life, but in a particularly painful way in the life of our special needs son.

Just recently, I shared the story of St. Juan Diego with a group of elementary school students. Their eyes were wide with wonder at the thought of roses, wet with dew, at the top of frozen Tepayac Hill on December 12 – the sign to the Bishop provided by Our Lady of Guadalupe. How miraculous! How improbable! Roses in winter!

The symbolism of the December rose contains a promise of waiting patiently for the beauty of another to unfold, not in our time frame but in theirs. If we prune too soon those who do not live up to our expectations, we may miss the beauty that will unfurl in due time, like the petals of the rose. Beauty must be cultivated; it cannot be forced or rushed.

In the family is found the security of knowing that others are in it “for the long haul”, and that we are all a work in progress. Of primary importance is to trust that God is drawing all of us to Him in ways as unique as each individual. No two roses are exactly the same, and neither are the ways of God with us. That is particularly important to remember when our children become young adults.

Things change with time. We no longer have roses growing alongside the driveway, so this year’s rose was cultivated from a small plant in our front window. It was a pretty little yellow flower, delicate and lovely.

When things sometimes look as bleak as a winter landscape, I shall remember a frozen hilltop just outside of Mexico City, and the breathtaking beauty of fresh roses sent from heaven. Then I will think of the promise of the December rose, and renew again my anticipation of its bloom.