The Most Beautiful Flower in Any Garden by Reverend Dawn Mayes –
On Friday the 13th of January 2012, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. There’s nothing that makes the bottom drop out of your world like hearing the word “cancer.” I felt like I had been dropped into the spin cycle of a washing machine as I whirled through nine months of medical appointments, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation. As a pastor, I had spent nearly 20 years ministering to others during illness and crises. Now, I was the one who needed care, which is difficult for someone used to being the caregiver!
In those bleak days of illness and fatigue, it would have been easy to become discouraged and depressed, but I knew through my work in pastoral care that attitude is everything. I decided to cultivate an attitude of gratitude and to focus on goodness and hope instead of letting cancer define me. Like any spiritual practice, my focus on gratitude required effort and patience. Some people practice gratitude by keeping a journal. My own practice was through gardening.
My husband and I planted yellow daisies, white vinca, and purple Mexican petunias. Even when I felt weak, I loved being in the yard, pulling weeds and dead-heading daisies. There was something about nurturing the flowers that enhanced my appreciation for the gift of life. Kneeling in the dirt, I gave thanks for legs that would carry me and for hands that could clasp a tender stem. I became acutely aware of the warmth of the sun and the coolness of earth.
While making my little patch of earth more beautiful, I gave thanks for the people who brought beauty into my life: the kind neighbor dropping off chicken pot pie for dinner, so many thoughtful cards arriving with the mail, and a member of our church leaving a meal on our porch every single day that I was going through chemo.
When I was too sick to work, I would sit quietly on the porch. The simplest things became profound gifts. Birds at the feeder, butterflies on a flowering bush and the brilliant shades of green decorating our yard. Gratitude was my constant companion lighting my days and driving away darkness. Of course, we don’t have to be sick or experience a crisis to benefit from the spiritual practice of gratitude. We can nurture gratitude by seeing the goodness in life, by acknowledging the beauty around us, and by appreciating the generosity of caring friends and family. Eventually, we discover that gratitude is the most beautiful flower in any garden.
Dawn Mayes is the Pastor of Community Presbyterian Church in Englewood. She can be reached at RevDawnMayes@gmail.com.