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Joannie the Begonia

It's funny, I can't really tell you what prompted me to mark each month of our adoption journey with a plant. The idea rooted in my mind (ha, no pun intended), and Mike was immediately on board.

But I can tell you exactly how many houseplants we owned before November -- ZERO!

I can tell you that a few years ago I put some potted flowers on our front porch, and they did fine until we went on vacation and I forgot they would need to be watered.

I can tell you that we look forward to turning off our sprinkler every year because then we can just accept our brown yard.

And before November I had never set foot in a garden store -- I had only purchased fake plants from IKEA up until then.

But it was important to me to mark each month of this journey. To acknowledge the passing of time with something living and beautiful. To watch each plant grow, to watch our home fill with beauty while we wait to welcome a child into that same home. A child who will fill each room with messes and laughter and beauty and love.

Each month, when Mike and I go to pick out a plant, I make sure my phone is fully charged. Because each plant that I come across, I google. What does this mean? What is the symbolism? How easy is it to keep alive?

But in November, right after we sent out our monthly email update, I got a beautiful message from a dear friend. In it, she asked if she could send me a plant for January. In her email, she told me about a begonia plant she had that had been gifted from a friend named Joannie. The last time my friend saw Joannie was in the mid-1970s. And Joannie was dying. She handed over her precious plant and asked my friend to always keep it alive and think of her.

This past Friday, that begonia clipping arrived in the mail, nestled in tissue paper and wrapped gently in plastic to keep her warm and safe as she traveled across the country. My friend requested that I call this delicate clipping Joannie. To keep her name alive. Her legacy.

So, I drove Joannie immediately to the garden store, where I handed her off to a kind worker, who nestled her in sweet-smelling soil in a brand new pot. I brought her home and put her in a sunny spot by the window. I carefully poured water around her little cluster of roots, coaxing them to grow and spread. I delighted in the moment the sun hit her leaves, shining red where once was just green.

I've been thinking a lot about death and life, beauty and ashes, as I look at Joannie the begonia. How Joannie's spirit is alive in this little plant. How, even though I never knew her, her name dances on my tongue some 40-odd years after her death. Something beautiful has sprung forth from the tragedy of her death.

And then, I think of the baby we are waiting for. How he or she will have a birth mother who will leave a legacy. That our child will experience loss even before he or she is born. But from that loss, will spring so much love. Love from a birth mother who will make an incredibly hard and brave decision. And love from us. A love that is already breaking our hearts in the waiting, making space for the vines and blooms of love that will break forth for this little one we do not know yet -- but already know deeply.

Side note -- I looked up the meaning of begonias after I wrote this post, and saw this: Begonias can also be gifted to someone who is going on a trip or planning some kind of potentially dangerous activity. And I literally laughed out loud. Parenting could certainly be a potentially dangerous activity, huh?!?

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