It has been many years since our hoya plant has blossomed. It is a great and easy plant to care for. I have had it since I lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan around 1979. My partner at the time, Gary, and I inherited the plant from the collective who had lived in the house before passing the house along to us. We became a Catholic Worker house, and offered hospitality to homeless families. In 1983 we moved to Chicago and took the plant with us, and when Gary and I separated in 1985, I eventually ended up with the plant, and have moved it with me ever since.
One of the names I learned for the plant was “Widow’s Tears.” When it blooms, the flowers have a sweet nectar that falls from their center. That name had an emotional resonance for me when Gary died in a car accident in 1988. Just after I learned about his death, the plant began to bloom. That blooming became one of several signs that touched me with Gary’s presence following his death. It is hard to explain, but it comforted me, it felt like a gift he had sent to me from beyond.
So this week, the hoya started to flower again, with two little umbrellas of florets beginning to form waxy pre-blooms. And this week, I learned that my dad, who has been in a nursing home for almost a year and a half, has taken a turn for the worse, and has slept through the last two days. A priest who is a friend of the family came today to pray and anoint him. My sister Julie has been the primary support person for my mom and dad since they moved to West Virginia in 2005. Most of us live at a distance. A few of my siblings have visited in the last couple weeks, and I will fly out on Monday.
Life is mysterious. They don’t really know what will happen next. It is possible he will rally, but it is starting to seem more likely that he is preparing for the transition into death, which for him signifies going home to eternal life. I asked my mom to hold the phone to his ear so I could speak to him, to tell him I love him, and I was coming on Monday, but I am with him in spirit, so whatever he needs to do will be okay. Which is true. And there is something about the hoya plant blooming that comforts me today, alerts me to the mysteries beyond life and death, and the bonds that unite us across many divides. May all of us be held in love.