My father-in-law died, 16 days shy of his 100th birthday.
For a while, he seemed to be aiming for that elusive century mark, or maybe it was just the rest of us loading all the hope for our own longevity on him.
Maybe that burden was too much, or maybe he just lost count in the sameness of his days. At any rate, he outlived a lot of suffering and had no fear of answering when death came calling.
He faced it with a faith tempered by reality, or maybe the other way round.
As a teen, he found the former in a church where he sought a little respite from a less-than-ordinary life. That planted a mystical seed that grew at the steps of the altar and along winding mountain paths.
The day of his funeral, a brilliant orange and yellow crocus lunged into bloom in his backyard. Other than the slowly awakening green of its spiny leaves and surrounding grass, it was the only color of life in sight, the first flower of a foundling spring.
In his poem about Oenone, the woman abandoned by Paris for Helen of Troy, Lord Tennyson wrote: “And at their feet the crocus brake like fire.”
I can see his simile in my father-in-law’s flower, a fiery incandescence flaming from deep within. Perhaps it is the heat of his crocus, and not the warming day, that has melted the bordering snow.
I called my wife to the porch and showed her the gleaming petals just off the step. She, like her father, is a big fan of resurrection and took the crocus as a certain sign that this long-retired pilot had gotten his wings once again.
I found it hard to imagine that he was already pushing up flowers, especially from his fourth-floor condominium crypt.
Carolyn, though, looked upon the resurgent beauty of that flower and saw it, as her father would, in the light of Isaiah.
“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad,” the prophet proclaimed, “the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus... .”
A crocus appearing on a hill above the desert valley, on the eve of spring and a day of grief, could be just a coincidence, but Ed would not have settled for that.
After 100 years of living, 72 years of marriage, and many long walks, he knew even that crocus had meaning, “evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1