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Petals and Ashes

By May 2, 2023April 26th, 2024No Comments

On a recent spring day, I walked to the woods behind my house. The sun shown brilliantly, and a robust wind blew the mostly-barren limbs of the trees. But happily, I saw tiny buds emerging.

There was a sense of hope.

The wind was important to me that day. I wanted its help for the task at hand. I carried a tea mug, half full of dried flower petals that I had crushed. With the next hearty gust, I flung a fistful of petals into the air. The wind picked them up and carried them down the hillside. They landed willy-nilly.

They were free.

I longed to be free too.

The flowers came from a beautiful arrangement that graced the top of my father’s casket. He passed during the pandemic on November 4, 2021. After his service on November 15, I felt a compulsion to press and dry several of the flowers. When I arrived home, I continued to tend them. Ultimately, they came to rest on a safe shelf where they stayed for one and a half years.

Exactly one year after I lost my father, my grandson Will was hospitalized with a terrible case of RSV.  Only four months old, every breath was a struggle. We were all sick, fearful of the worst. Mercifully, God helped this tiny child recover and return home to his family.

But the experience was hard to forget.

The past three years have been hard to forget. For me, there were months of staring out a window, feeling like I was the last person on earth. There was fear, anxiety, depression, loneliness and at times, despair. There was an N95 mask that I had to wear for almost a year at work. I will never forget how hard it was to breath.

I’ve kept that N95 mask for over two years, but today I set it on fire. When the ashes cooled, I again walked to the woods behind my house and flung them to the wind.

Grief can be a long and twisting road, without rhyme or reason. Sometimes we seem to do things that don’t make sense. But I’ve reached a place where I want to release long-held sorrow.

I don’t want to remember my father in a casket—the last time I saw him—or even his funeral flowers. He was a vibrant, funny and kind-hearted human being. I strive to be like him.

And I don’t want to remember myself in a mask, struggling to breath, sad and frightened. That’s not me or the person I want to be.

Instead, I want to remember this:

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.
 See, I (God) am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

Isaiah 43:18-19

     Friend, wherever you are on your journey, I wish you freedom from the past and wellness. Today is a new day. Yesterday doesn’t exist anymore. Be blessed and take care of yourself.

Until next time…



Author Joy Cleveland writes Small Town Contemporary Christian Romances that will warm your heart, feed your soul, and quite possibly tickle 'your funny bone.' A product of small town living, Joy strives to craft characters that feel like family and places that feel like home. Currently, she calls Iowa home. When she's not tapping computer keys, she's playing with grandkids, mowing grass, or chasing her dog. A lover of words, she's published short stories, plays for children, and quirky newsletters. "To Call My Own' is her first novel.

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