Unlike those of us content to plant only shrubs, our next door neighbors plant all kinds of flowers, including sunflowers, which reach so far above the fence that tries to keep them contained, straightway within their backyard, that I can’t help noticing their over-sized faces every time I drive up our driveway—though they never look happy to see me arrive.
A dainty daisy and baby’s breath kind of girl myself, frankly, I find sunflowers overwhelming and intimidating—almost ferocious, if I can confide. (Think they sense that? Think that’s why they never seem to greet me with a smile?)
And so when I read that a husband and his children had chosen to flank a 4-mile segment of a Wisconsin highway with sunflowers, planted out of respect for their deceased wife and mother, as a cancer-fighting fundraiser, I thought, How appropriate—especially since they held a special place in the deceased woman’s floral heart.
Stand up to cancer. Defy it. Plant something powerfully, strikingly beautiful as a statement against its power in its wake.
“Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
No wonder, I thought, too, the sunflower was her favorite. She had to be strongly rooted in her faith to stand so tall, to fight so hard against the cancer that ultimately released her from this life, and to have the charity before she died to suggest and request the fundraising enterprise.
As much as I was touched by the courage and generosity of the dying of the woman at the center of the sunflower-planting tribute, I was struck by the connection between the kind of cancer that took that woman’s life and the kind of cancer that took my grandmother’s. Multiple myeloma. Their cancers were alike.
When my grandmother was dying at Memorial Hospital (now Memorial Sloan Kettering), the doctors told my grandfather that although they could not save her life, they hoped that permitting an autopsy would provide insights that would help prevent others from succumbing to the disease. As abhorrent as he and his children found the specter of cutting their beloved’s body apart, for the good of others, my grandfather allowed the doctors to do what they asked.
That was many decades ago. I was sorry to read that the woman honored with the sunflowers had undergone a variety of twenty-two treatments before her death.
…Still, I do not wish to think that my grandmother’s autopsy—as well as the experimental interventions she was given while still alive–were for naught.
…Likewise, I like to believe that the interventions and death of the woman at the heart of the sunflower planting, as well as the fundraising efforts in her honor, will make a difference–hopefully the ultimate difference in fighting the cancer that took their lives.
As I contemplate the continued deaths to multiple myeloma and other forms of cancer, I pray that all those sunflowers lifting their faces to the heavens act as reminders, pleas of sorts, to those that have lost their lives, to intercede for a cure.
And when the Good Lord (as my Grandmother always—and continually–called her Savior) sends children into the world with kernels of inspirations, like tiny mustard seeds of ability and knowledge, to grow into mighty warriors to fight cancers, I pray that they are not aborted before they have a chance to live and to let others live—others like the woman in the article and my Grandmother—who died before the cure.
Meanwhile, while families suffer, the love from–and for–all those who have died of cancer—and every other cause—expressed in goodness to others for their sake, in the Lord, is a beautiful sight—a bouquet of faith and hope and love, comprised of every kind of flower, from dainty daisies and baby’s breath to sunflowers, strong and tall.