A Heaven-Sent Bouquet of Flowers

She went above and beyond when she delivered bouquets for the florist. Then the love she shared came full circle.  

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- Posted on Apr 27, 2021

A trio of angels holding a large bouquet; Illustration by Dinara Mirtalipova

Some people wouldn’t be happy about having to work on Mother’s Day weekend, but I felt pretty lucky when I climbed into the florist delivery van on Saturday morning. My own mother was no longer alive to appreciate the flowers I always gave her on her special day, so brightening the day of other moms seemed like the best thing to do.

I pulled out onto the road, enjoying the smell of the bouquets behind me. The scent took me back to my childhood, choosing blooms from my grandmother’s garden to give to my mother. I could almost see Grandma’s massive field of daffodils spread out before me. Or the purple and blue irises that grew on the slope down to the railroad track where the N&W picked up my conductor grandfather every day for work. And the bell-shaped lilies of the valley under the holly tree. My favorites were the hydrangeas surrounding the wraparound porch and the roses Grandma ordered specially from the Jackson & Perkins catalog. If love had a scent, I always thought, it would smell like roses and hydrangeas.

Still pretty new at this job, I counted my blessings as I took in the fresh flower garden I seemed to carry inside the van. I’d spent most of my life working in the X-ray department of the VA hospital. After I retired, I missed the daily routine and the patients. I’d always admired the arrangements in the window of Garrisons Designs, so when the shop advertised for a part-time driver I applied. I’d become friends with the florists while we made small talk about our own favorite flowers. I admired the personal details they worked into each bouquet. Now I witnessed the joy brought by their handiwork.

First up on my list of deliveries was a nursing home. Someone named Mary was getting a vase of pink roses from her children. I announced the recipient’s name to the nurse on duty.

“Roses for Mary?” the nurse said. “Room two twenty-four. Just set them by the window. It’s a nice gesture, but sadly she won’t know the flowers are there.”

Carrying the vase down the hall, I remembered all those visits with my own mother in her last years. I always came bearing flowers and made sure to put them in view from her bed. Roses like these couldn’t just be set on the windowsill and forgotten.

“Happy Mother’s Day, Mary,” I announced at the doorway of Room 224. “Your children sent you these beautiful flowers.”

Mary didn’t respond. I brought the bouquet nearer so she could smell it and brushed a velvety petal against her cheek. I stepped back again to hold the vase in full view. Mary’s eyes followed the flowers. “Your daughter called to order these just for you.”

I had an idea. I set the roses down on the bedside tray and pulled out my cell phone. Mary’s daughter lived out of state, but I had her number on my delivery list. I combed Mary’s short gray hair into place and took a picture of this loved mother with her roses. Was I imagining the hint of a smile on her face? I didn’t think so. The flowers had done their work. “Just look at your mama,” I texted Mary’s daughter. “The roses were a blessing.”

I was a little behind schedule by the time I got back to my van, but it was worth it. I had many other deliveries at nursing homes like Mary’s. Carnations for Bonnie, daisies for Lucille, lilies for Maryanne. I took a lot of pictures, sent a lot of texts and shared a lot of joy.

The sun was setting by the time I began my last delivery, a bright mix of tulips for the mother of a man named Billy who lived in Florida.

That delivery took me down a winding road up a West Virginia hollow. I pulled up at an enchanting white cottage. Out front were two huge rhododendrons—West Virginia’s state flower. I’d never seen rhododendrons grow like trees vibrant with silk purple blooms in May.

Billy needs to see this, I thought, whipping out my phone. I snapped a picture of his mom’s cottage with the rhododendrons out front. I had a moment’s hesitation after pressing SEND. Was I going too far? Billy’s mother wasn’t even in the picture. My phone pinged back instantly with an answer. “Thank you for bringing back my homeplace!” Billy wrote. “How I miss my mother and those rhododendrons!” Once again, the flowers had spread their joy.

It was dark by the time I got back to the shop with the van. It felt empty without all those cheerful flowers in the back, and I was a little sorry my job was done. All that remained were a few scattered petals on the floor and an empty box tucked into the corner behind my seat. I swept out the petals, but when I went to toss the box, I saw a flash of pink. The box wasn’t empty. I opened it fully to find flowers inside. An exquisite arrangement of pale pink roses and white hydrangeas. The familiar scent overwhelmed me, the most beautiful combination I knew.

It had been a day full of love. But had I messed up? I felt around in the box for a card and checked over my list of deliveries again. No card, no address for these—somebody was out there feeling forgotten!

I rushed into the shop, the bell on the door tinkling. “These weren’t on my list,” I said as I set the box on the counter. “Roses and hydrangeas! I’m afraid someone’s missed her flowers by mistake.”

“No mistake, Rita,” my coworker said. “Those flowers are for you. Your friend Patrick wanted you to have some flowers of your own today, so of course we arranged your favorites.”

All day I’d watched flowers bring joy to others, the same joy I’d gathered for Mom from Grandma’s garden. I couldn’t wait to put my roses and hydrangeas in water. The love I’d known since childhood, that love I’d shared all day, had come right back to me.

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