At my son’s high school graduation, each of the graduates was given a white rose before the ceremony began. Each student—all 300-something—walked in carrying his or her rose, though it seemed instruction as to the best way to carry that item in a procession was missing. It was, however, a nice touch.
After a two-hour ceremony in weather that alternated between cool, hot (for about 5 minutes), and windy, the rose that was handed to me by my graduate was limp and wilted. It seemed as though it might not be salvageable, especially after we spent another half hour or more taking pictures and further ignoring it. I had a vague thought that if I put it in water, the bud would continue to droop on a stem grown weak from mistreatment.
But I am a sucker for beauty and for living (and once-living) things. So when I arrived home, I gave the rose a bit of TLC. I clipped the bottom of the stem, stuck it in a vase of water, and placed it in the center of my kitchen table. In the next hour, it began to take on new life. First, it grew a bit less droopy. The petals stuck out in awkward directions as the bud began to right itself while it took in nourishment. It wasn’t long before the bud seemed much happier.
I left the house for a while to attend a graduation party, and when I returned, there were bits of torn leaves littering the table around the base of the vase. “Which one of you has been eating the leaves off the rose?” I scolded the cats. “Knock it off!” I moved the vase to the kitchen counter because I am delusional enough to believe my cats do not frequent the counter tops.
In the middle of the night, I was awakened by a thunk and an additional strange noise and then nothing. I fell back to sleep and quickly forgot about the disturbance. When I went downstairs in the morning, the vase lay on its side on the counter, and the rose was on the floor beneath, lying in a puddle of water.
Sighing, I clipped a smidge more off the stem, and once again placed it in the water. This time, I snipped off the leaves since that was the part the cats found most appetizing.
Since then, my son’s rose has bloomed beautifully, even growing shoots with fresh new leaves where the old ones had been snipped off the stem. This rose has become a fitting symbol for the life to come for my graduate. Sometimes, things don’t go smoothly. We may be weakened by the experiences we withstand. We may face adversity. We may be torn down by those around us. But through it all, we learn that we are stronger than we might have thought. We learn to gain strength from our trials. We learn that growing in new directions is always a possibility. And we learn how to let our inner beauty shine through it all.