[ Divine Signs ]

Pansies From Heaven

I've often heard it said that God doesn't put anything on you that you can't handle, but there have been times in my life when I thought God was grossly overestimating my ability to cope. I guess God always knew more about what I could or couldn't handle than I did. I do believe however that when something happens that God sees you need a little help with, He goes one step further and lets you know everything will be alright.

A lot of people don't believe in signs and miracles, and some that do are so wrapped up in their own world, they just don't bother to see what is right in front of them. I've always tried to keep an open mind, to take the time to stop and look around me, to see the messages that God sends to all of us, if only we'll open our hearts and our minds and believe in his love for us.

In July of 2004 my stepdaughter and I rejoiced at finally getting Dad to agree to a flower garden around an old pine tree in the front yard. Every year we had tried to talk him into letting us put a garden around this tree, but he always said we were going to have the tree removed and there was no sense in putting in a flower garden that we'd end up destroying when the tree was removed.

Beth was my gardening soul mate. We both enjoyed working in the yard, planting flowers and shrubs and just being outside. My two other daughters had never had any interest in gardening or working in the yard, so this was the one thing Beth and I had in common that formed the Mother-Daughter bond that is often missing between a stepparent and the child that just happened to walk into their lives one day.

The first thing that we did was to dig out the grass from around the tree and make a fairly nice-sized garden to plant our flowers. I told Beth that this garden was her garden, that we could plant anything she wanted. Beth loved pansies, it was kind of a private joke between us. A trip to Home Depot one summer introduced her to the annual flower that she immediately fell in love with - especially the yellow and purple ones.

We prepared the garden and then started our search for pansies, but none could be found. I didn't know that pansies are planted in early spring or late fall, and that finding them in the middle of summer was not an easy task. No one had pansies, so we had to settle for a variety of other flowering plants with the promise that in the fall - as soon as we could buy pansies - we would buy some and plant them in Beth's flower garden.

The garden was lovely, even though no pansies were planted, and Beth lovingly cared for her flower garden almost daily throughout the summer.

Well, there was much more going on in Beth's life besides tending her garden. She had turned sixteen the January before, and was having the normal growing pains most teenage girls of that age experience. While Beth was a wonderful person and a loving and extremely thoughtful and helpful young woman, she was also very young for her age. She didn't look sixteen, but more like twelve, and her interests and hobbies didn't seem to be inline with most girls of that age.

Her Father and I were always very concerned about Beth, because while she was a very agreeable child, she suffered from juvenile arthritis, which she had battled with her entire young life. She had decided on her own to not do her exercises and to stop taking the prescribed medication she was suppose to take every day. There were many disagreements and battles over this issue, and while I could understand that Beth just wanted to be a normal girl, this condition demanded attention - attention she didn't want to give.

She also had started feeling the pressures of having a boyfriend. All her friends had boyfriends, and she felt like she didn't fit in because she didn't have one. We told her almost daily that she had the rest of her life to worry about boys, that she should be spending time with her friends having fun and enjoying her high school years.

But Beth secretly became involved with a boy she met at a friend's party, and started sneaking around to see him. One evening, we had a visit from this boy's mother who was looking for her son, and of course we were a bit surprised to hear this boy and Beth were dating, since we knew nothing of it.

When Beth came home, we talked to her about the situation and voiced our disappointment that she had lied and gone behind our backs. We also told her that she was grounded for two weeks, and that after the two weeks if she was serious about this boy, he could come to the house and we'd all meet and discuss the terms of their dating.

Well, it seems that two weeks were much too long for this boy to be without a girlfriend, so he broke up with Beth - but not to her face. He told her friend, who in turn told her.

Beth acted fine, sometimes seeming a little depressed, but nothing that you don't see with most teenage girls - especially when they break up with their boyfriends. We later found out that Beth had thought that once school started, she and Jesse would get back together.

On September 3rd, the second day of school, Beth came home from school planning to go shopping with her biological Mom which she didn't see often. She called me when she got home from school and I told her to come by the store (her Father and I own a computer store) to get money before she went shopping.

Everything seemed fine, she was happy and perky and looking forward to the plans she had made with friends for the weekend (Labor Day Weekend). I talked to her a second time that afternoon, calling her because she was supposed to be by to pick up the money at 3:00 p.m. but hadn't shown up as of 3:30 p.m. She assured me that she was still going shopping, so again everything seemed fine and I wasn't at all concerned about her.

After another half-hour, her Father came back to the store and asked if she had been by. I told him she hadn't and he suggested that I call again to make sure everything was fine, but this time there was no answer. Now feeling that something might be wrong, I drove the few blocks home to check on her.

I found Beth in her room. She had hung herself. I can't tell you the devastating effect this had on our family. We all loved Beth so much, and there was never an indication that she had a problem or was depressed or would ever even consider doing something like this. We found out later that Beth had spoken to this boy on the phone and then hung herself. What was said then will always be unknown; we can only speculate on what happened.

Time passed by, and all the flowers in the yard started to die or go dormant. I had pulled all the dead flowers out of Beth's flower garden around the middle of October. Halloween came and went, and we were all facing Thanksgiving, Christmas and Beth's birthday without her.

I was so depressed and heartbroken over losing her, and often my thoughts lead to fears about what happens to us when we die. My biggest fear was that it was nothing, when we died, we were just gone, and nothing lay ahead for us after this life.

For the first time ever, I doubted everything I had believed in my entire life. Even when my parents had died, I knew they had moved on to a better place, a new life, and I never once believed they were just gone. Now all these doubts came intruding on my daily thoughts, almost haunting me. I started feeling like I couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't bear the thought that Beth a mere baby at 16 years of age had lived all she was meant to live and was just gone, and God let this happen.

It was about a week before Thanksgiving, and I was depressed and trying to convince myself that Beth wasn't really dead, she was just out with friends, and she'd be home later. I had gone to the market to grab a few things, and on my return home I noticed something that I hadn't seen before.

When pulling into our driveway, there around the old tree in the front yard, in Beth's garden, was a solitary pansy plant with one big yellow and purple bloom on it. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. We had never had pansies in our yard before, not in any of the flower beds, and none of our neighbors had pansies in their yards either.

Where this pansy plant came from was a mystery to me. The first thought I had was that Beth put the pansy there, a message to me saying that everything was alright, and she was alright and happy. I wanted to believe this so much, I had to believe it.

That winter was the harshest winter we've had in New England in a really long time. It snowed all the time, almost weekly, and yet that pansy remained green and flourished. We had one snow storm that stayed on the ground for over a month, and yet when the snow finally melted, there was Beth's pansy.

In March, Beth's pansy started blooming again, and not just one or two blooms, but almost a dozen of them! I could see that Beth was working really hard to fill that flower bed with pansies, so I went out and bought ninety-eight pansy plants and planted them in Beth's pansy garden.

I planted ninety-eight pansies, Beth planted one, and together, even after her death, we finished what we had planned together nine months earlier, two months before her death. Beth sent me the pansies to let me know that she was alright and happy, and that we could all go on with our lives, and death wasn't the end, not for any of us - it's a new journey.

Shelby M.

Tiverton, RI