It was a rose -- a dark red rose, and she had stolen it from someone else’s garden. She had no right to this perfect, beautiful thing; it was not hers to take. But there was no point in returning it. You can’t stick a plucked flower back on the bush again, it has been permanently severed from its source of life. And to go and walk up to a stranger’s door and confess she had taken their rose, when their bushes were covered in flowers, and one wouldn’t even be missed, seemed an absurdity.
There was no point fretting about it, there was enough real guilt in her life without getting upset about picking a flower. She would put it in a vase and enjoy its fragrant beauty for a few days – until it withered and died like all beautiful things wither and die – like everything she touched would wither and die. No, that was being absurd, the flower would wither and die just the same if she had left it on the rosebush. Loveliness never lasted, whether she had anything to do with it or not.
And every lovely thing in her life was broken. The man whom she had thought would cherish her forever had moved on, and blamed her depression for destroying their relationship. The depression had been triggered by the loss of the child she had been carrying. The miscarriage had been caused by being in a car accident. And the car accident was one hundred percent her own fault. If only she had looked one more time ..
Was there no beauty, no love that one could count on in life? Even this fast-withering rose, with its perfume that sang to her heart, had thorns it would not hesitate to use if she grew careless in the way she handled it. She knew the platitudes, she could recite them to herself: though the rose died, the rosebush would go on – and there would be other men, other children ..
It wasn’t enough. She didn’t want another child, she wanted that child, the one who had grown inside her for 4 months, before departing in a horror of pain and blood. She didn’t want another husband, she wanted the one she had pledged her heart to, even though he had proved unworthy of her trust and was now, already, deeply involved with someone else. And, she thought, including in her anger the God she had once taken so seriously as a child, resurrection, at this moment, seemed much less appealing than never having to die in the first place. Why did life always have to be about making do and putting a brave face on second best? Why couldn’t it ever be the best?
And yet, she herself was part of that brokenness. She wasn’t the only one hurt in that accident; the little girl in the other car would be months in hospital. What grief must her mother be going through? And that family had only recently lost another child. “Who am I to demand the best for myself when I am the cause of the worst happening to others?” she whispered. And it was worse. She knew why she had failed to pay attention at the intersection; she knew exactly what had been occupying her mind at the time, though there was no way that she was going to admit it to the police, or anybody else. She had been daydreaming a particularly sordid, nasty little revenge on someone who, in retrospect, had hardly injured her at all—and certainly not with intentional malice.
She turned the rose around and around in her fingers, considering. The thing that had so infuriated her back then? In hindsight it was as petty, as humiliatingly stupid, as if the owner of that rosebush had been plotting terrible vengeance on her for taking a flower whose loss wasn’t even visible. It didn’t make her stealing (yes, call it stealing) right, it didn’t make that careless unkindness that had so upset her right either; but her reaction had been out of all proportion. Be honest; her fury was goaded by hurt pride, not genuine injury or violation. And out of that moment of evil in her own heart (yes, call it evil, what she was imagining would have been a hideous crime in real life – and she was enjoying it!) came all the things that were hurting her now. She herself was an integral part of everything she raged against.
It was hard, and it didn’t make the immediate grief or loss any less – they were real things, costing real pain. But maybe in the very fact that God had lavished so much beauty on something as short-lived as a rose, was a promise in itself. Maybe, just maybe, on the far side of this darkness there could be room to learn to hope again? And maybe forgiveness was not just a pious fiction to enable people to put up with second best – maybe it was an absolute necessity which the whole world, and herself most of all, desperately needed before hope could have a chance? The fragrance of the rose was sweet and strong, but she barely noticed, for her tears were falling fast.