Nana called them pocketbook plants, their bushy pom-pom flowers large enough to hide anything in their depths. She carefully grouped them around the farm in shades of pink, blue and white mounds, as if she encouraged them to gather together like girlfriends meeting for coffee…bending their heads, sharing their secrets. I later discovered that most people called them hydrangeas, but that name never quite accurately matched the pocketbook description Nana bestowed on them.
Hydrangea blooms have clusters of overlapping petals, wide-stretched and open to the world, with areas of interlocking spaces, closely-twined and hidden from the outside. Like a Nana’s pocketbook they hold unknown treasure waiting to be discovered. Beneath the petals are new little stems shooting up from the main stem, constantly replenishing the petals with water and nutrients so they will continue to bloom. I look at hydrangeas and I feel like I’m being welcomed home and gathered up into a huge all-encompassing hug. Their long stems beckon me to be embraced within the soft flower cushions. Like a little girl pulled close to her Nana’s lap, I want to settle into those pocketbooks and cuddle into their secret places.
Nana passed away the year I turned six. When the minister came and tried to explain eternal life to me, I asked foolish questions like: What will Nana eat? Where will she sleep in heaven? Can she plant flowers up there? The night Nana died, I dreamt I opened the door to our garage and saw Nana stretching her hands towards me. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t touch her. She seemed happy, smiling at me, reaching for me. It felt like she gave me a hug, even though she remained at a distance. After that I could only see Nana’s smiling face in pictures in which she had posed before her blooming hydrangeas.
Today I fill my home with hydrangeas in honor of Nana: in silk arrangements, on pillow tapestries, on favorite mugs, on picture frames, in wide vases, in open baskets, on door wreaths. Hydrangeas decorate my home, but more importantly they remind me of God’s promise of eternal life.
In Romans 8, verses 38 to 39, Paul describes his belief about eternal life: “ For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Like the secure, interlocking spaces within the bobbing hydrangea bloom, my soul’s secrets are safe in the depths of God’s love. If I seek for the hidden treasures I will find them: forgiveness, reassurance, mercy. Like the wide-stretched petals of the hydrangea that face outward, I will be open to the world. I am free to share God’s love with others and to offer His welcoming embrace of eternal life.