We regret to inform you…..
It seemed only fitting on that summer night when Lily received the telegram, that a hail storm came through and shattered their garden, just as words on a piece of paper shattered her life.
Missing in action.
By morning, there was little left of the carefully planted beds of flowers and Victory Garden vegetables that had dotted their back yard. What remained in the wake of the storm was just an ugly tangle of broken stems and shredded blossoms.
Not that Lily noticed. Not then. Her heart was crushed, the beauty of her own life gone as well. It would be some time before she would look outside and realize that there had been two casualties that night.
Through the fall and winter, like her garden, Lily lay dormant. Her garden, under a blanket of frost and then snow, and Lily, swaddled in the comfort of her grandmother’s quilt. She was in shock, and so was her garden, and Mother Nature prescribed sleep.
In the spring Lily ventured out into her back yard for the first time, and assessed the damage. Normally, spring is a time of wonder, as new signs of life push through the darkness of the soil to reach the sun and rain. Lily felt no wonder this year. Just sadness and loss, and she watered the ground with her tears.
But as summer began to edge its way past spring, the first seeds of hope were sown. Dressed in Joe’s old work shirt, bib overalls and rubber boots, with her hair caught up in one of his red bandanas, Lily set to work. She pulled up the lupine that had never thrived even in the best of years, and planted snapdragons. The larkspur that shriveled in the midday heat she replaced with hardier chrysanthemums. She tore out half of the overgrown blackberries, and put in more tomatoes and green beans. And as she pulled, and cried and planted, her garden, along with her heart, started to mend.
By the end of summer, Lily was finished. She’d brought their garden back. Not the same garden they had planted together. That garden was gone. But a new one, a better one. She was sure Joe would approve, and be proud of her. She was accepting that her life held a future. Even without him.
And then one afternoon, in early September, just as she was in the midst of picking a bouquet of black eyed Susans and asters to place on the little cherry table in her kitchen, Lily received a second telegram. Still holding the flowers, and scarcely able to breathe, she sat down in the grass and opened it.
For the second time in her life, Lily held, in trembling hands, a bouquet of flowers that seemed to her to be the most beautiful flowers in the world.