I am grateful for the friends like gardeners who make my soul blossom. In our garden of life, we have many flowers of friendship. I have the elegant rose, the exuberant sunflower, the quiet daisy and the resilient snapdragons. Some of my plants are hearty and survive the frosts; but others are only there for a short season. I love to pick my bouquets and enjoy them as they bring beauty to my life. I recognize a new bud and I am grateful for the sprouts in the spring that come back year after year. Nonetheless, the natural beauty I enjoy as I walk through the garden is to be cherished. Much like my friends.
Years ago, when my father was living independently in a Senior Home after my mother had passed away, I met some resilient, positive and interesting seniors. I would often visit them at lunch when I would share a meal with my father. I also decided that I would bring Middle School children over to the facility to read, play cards and games with anyone who was interested in joining our group. Needless to say, we gathered to have laughs, heard stories and shared life together before the pandemic.
There was one particular woman who stood out from among the group. Her name was Connie. Her positive attitude, friendly nature and caring personality was evident from the moment we laughed together. She was the first person to make sure everyone at the lunch and dinner table were taken care of. She volunteered to help at the “Tuck Shop” and to take her little dog to the Memory Care section of the building every Tuesday. She joined the variety of activities each week and she always had a cheerful word to say to others. What endeared me to her was her concern for my father and her connection to one of the troubled female students I would bring over once a week to read to the seniors.
Since my father’s passing, we have stayed in touch and I am often intrigued with people’s stories, so I asked her if she would tell me hers and share any advice about aging that she had to offer me. I hope to share her story one day. She is my Aster; a daisy-like flower that symbolizes wisdom, faith and valor.
At the same facility was another wonderful woman. Her name was Ruth and she loved to share stories about the prairies, being a gym teacher and the Air Force. She also loved to read. This soft-spoken woman with a twinkle in her eye, recently passed away at the age of 98, just shy of her 100th birthday. The gladioluses have strong, tall stems indicating strength of character.
I also have young friends that keep me updated with the latest technology and dreams for the future. Some of them ask for advice about raising their children and others simply need encouragement. They are young and full of life like the marigolds with their passion and creativity.
The beauty of friendships is that no matter what stage of life we are in, friendships are vital to our well-being. A recent study at Michigan State university found that 271,053 adults, particularly older adults, that they surveyed, valued friendships as relatively reliable, strong predictors of their happiness and health.
I have friendships that have lasted over 60 years, but I do not see those people that often and even if zoom has now afforded us more time together, it’s not the same as face-to-face meetings. Zinneas indicate remembering good memories. The friendships I do value with my girlfriends that I have conversations, coffee, excursions with and see several times a week are my beautiful roses. We have been through various experiences. We can discuss everything and agree to disagree. We walk together. We pray for each other and we are connected. There are blossoms and thorns in all relationships; male and female. I even consider marital and sibling relationships in the array of garden plants.
There are several reasons for gaining, keeping and developing friendships. Here are a few of them:
- Connection to combat loneliness. Just like plants suffer when they do not have enough water or nourishment; as do our lives when we don’t engage socially. You can blossom by participating or volunteering for activities that bring you more alive by meeting new friends or sharing time and talents with friends we have.
- Continue to adapt. Just like plants have certain components to them, so do our bodies. Brains can change and new pathways can be created. Engaging our brains and our bodies, can benefit us physically through our immune system as well by keeping us thinking positive thoughts and learning new skills with friends. Adopting healthy habits is beneficial for a longer life.
- Caring about Others. A healthy garden is when plants grow together and create a feast for the bees. When friendships thrive, all benefit. Friendships can range from close personal relationships to simple social bonds. The fragrances of laughter and comradery attract others.
“A sweet friendship refreshes the soul.” Proverbs 27:9 An elegant bloom, contrasting colors and fragrances are like the friendships that bring joy and love to our lives. Let us remember, as Gerard De Nerval reminds us, “Every flower is a soul blossoming in nature.” Bring that touch to another by tending to your friendships. You will have a spectacular array of wonder in your life.