We have some rose bushes out front of our house. They are a pain. Maybe it's because I’m not much of a horticulturists or just that I hate thorns, or both.

Every year I have to take time out to dig in and cut back dead limbs. This year I trimmed what seemed like all that was left of one bush. It was a pain. Some of what I started pruning was already dead, even though on the outside it still looked greenish.

I pretty much wrote the one rose bush off as dead. I started thinking about if we would refill that place or leave it bare and save me some work.

And then it started growing back. It’s growing like crazy right now.

We have a small dog, a schnauzer. Yoda is 11 this year. Recently he really started slowing down. Not moving well. Not playing. 

So we started having conversations with the boys. Nothing lives forever. It was great to have him in our family. Should we get another dog.... by the way the answer is ‘NO’. All that kind of stuff.

Jess took him for his annual check up and we were dreading it. The reality would soon hit of his pending demise and we would face reality. So she takes him in and the vet says, ‘He is really healthy except for a bad urinary tract infection. She prescribes him some meds and in two days he is back to full life. Acting 5 years young again.

The rose bushes weren’t dead, or dying, they were growing. But growing isn’t always getting bigger or brighter. Bigger and brighter wasn’t what they needed. They needed death. Not total death, but some of those branches weren’t helpful anymore. They weren’t contributing to maturity. They were sucking the life away from new growth. The rosebush was heading into a cycle of being alive and yet not making rose blooms. Of living to take up space instead of being what it was created to be.

Yoda wasn’t dying he was sick. The spot I picked out to bury him in wasn’t what he needed. He needed some medicine. But he can’t talk and I hate suffering so I just decided to give up. I almost wanted him to go because I didn’t want to suffer with him for any period of time.

What are we doing to our rose bushes? Where in our life are the hints of death intending to be clues for life? Where are we feeding what is dying and starving what God is cultivating in us to live? Where do we choose to decay over thriving because the pruning is too hard?

What are we doing with the sick around us? Are we self-aware? Introspective? Is it the world that needs to change so all can be as it should? Is there sick among us and in us, and yet we resign ourselves to bury it because contending with it would take too much?

There is no life apart from death. Maturity must take things from us in order to grant us new hopes, new dreams, new joys.

Too often I hold onto the mirage of old happiness, or worse yet, the memories of old disappointments and hurts, for the sake of the comfort found in the suffering that I know. I live unaware and blind to the beauty of new blooms and the vibrancy of mended hurts.

I get lost in my misery or sadness. I let it become my identity. I make it my badge. And then in an act of victimization on my brothers and sisters, I demand they join me in my mess. 

Maybe it’s just me... and my rose bushes.... and my poor dog I tried to bury, even though he wasn’t close to death. Maybe I have to admit, and so I will in the intimacy of the internet, that it's me. That my appetite for blooming is often quenched by the apathy of my self-interest.

Maybe. It’s just me. I confess.

- B Varner


Jonathan Francois