Dave walked through my work parking lot with a peace lily. The card read, “You are a lily among thorns.” It commemorated our first month of dating. Because Dave is a romantic fellow. But I panicked. First, because he was at my work totally unannounced, and I hadn’t showered in two days. I was strictly stocking and reworking a department. I smelled atrocious, as I was moving racks and helping to unload a truck. Missouri in the summer. And he was standing before me perfectly groomed. With a lily. That was my second reason to start having heart palpitations. I am a plant killer.
I still lived at home, so my mom helped me keep Leilani alive. But I still managed to kill her. She was technically growing, but stopped blooming. She didn’t bloom again for several years. Her first bloom: the week we found out we were pregnant with Graham. And she bloomed again the week we found out Adelaide was on her way. Leilani didn’t bloom for Elizabeth Mae. Well, I don’t think she did. My mom cared for that peace lily, because I kill plants. Now that I think about it, she may have bloomed exactly three years ago and I just don’t remember my mom telling me. We were getting ready to travel to Kansas City for Adelaide’s appointment.
When Dave’s dad died, Linda gave me a peace lily from the funeral. I tried to decline it, but she answered, “You can care for it until you and Dave are married and it can go with you to your new home.” She didn’t understand. “Linda, I shouldn’t take it. I kill plants.” “Take it. You’re family.” I took it because she was my future mother-in-law and I loved her and it seemed important to her. It was dead before Valentine’s Day. Mike’s birthday. I remember sobbing on my bed. A dead plant in two months. Dave’s dad dead on what should’ve been his birthday dinner, and I’m staring at a dead plant. “Dave, I killed your dad’s peace lily.” “I knew you would. It’s okay. You tried to warn mom.”
When Bob died last year, Linda tried to give me a peace lily. “No, Linda, I’ll just kill it. And I can’t handle that happening again.” This time, she listened. We have a different relationship now. She’s been my second mom for a decade. One of the few people who have read my testimony against my dad. When the hospital said only three people could be in the room with me for Graham’s birth, the list was Dave, Mom, and Linda. She and my mom taught me to breastfeed. She and my mom took turns going with me to Adelaide’s appointments in Kansas City when Dave couldn’t take off work each time. My two moms. Who both keep plants alive. “Lyndse, I understand. Don’t take the plant.” I couldn’t kill another plant. I took photos of the coffin and flowers and Bob. But I didn’t want a plant.
Mike’s been gone 11 years now. And Linda was so excited to tell me that his peace lily was blooming. She’s kept it alive and healthy all these years. On the anniversary of his death, it bloomed. We were sitting on her couch, and I was tearing up but bursting inside. A peace lily bloom again. A baby in my womb again. But I couldn’t tell Linda. It was still a secret. We hadn’t even tested yet.
But Dave and I knew we were pregnant. And his dad’s peace lily bloomed for a baby who will be born just days before the 13th anniversary of that awkward, beautiful moment in a parking lot. Where my future husband, who was still just my brand new boyfriend, gave me a flower that would bloom for our future children.
When I see peace lilies, I’m reminded that people die, plants die, plants bloom, babies are born, and life goes on. I’m part of all of it. But I wish I wasn’t part of some of it.