By Haley Forbes
Ever since I can remember, my grandfather would give my grandmother sunflowers. Whenever he saw sunflowers, he stopped what he was doing immediately to provide her with the flowers. It was their "thing" as some would say. Our whole family knew this would happen and we would delight in watching their love continue to bloom each time my grandfather gave my grandmother sunflowers.
My grandparents were married for 55 years before my grandmother passed away in 2011. She found out she was battling stage 3 melanoma, which had spread to her lungs and quickly became terminal. The first thing my grandfather did was bring her a bouquet of sunflowers. He was devastated, having been married so long, to now have to grieve his loving wife. No matter what the situation was, when my grandfather gifted sunflowers to my grandmother, it automatically made her feel better. But my grandmother continued to get sicker, and after only two weeks of knowing she was ill, my grandmother passed away peacefully.
The funeral was only a week later, but a devastating day for the family. Without telling anyone, my grandfather ordered an array of sunflowers to display at the funeral. The entire family walked in and cried because it was joyful to see her favorite flowers beautifully set up to commemorate my grandmother's life on a day of such sadness. As families do after a loved one passed, we grieved and continued to live our lives while always remembering my grandmother. About six months after her funeral, spring was blossoming, and the scenery of the earth looked beautiful. The whole family was outside at a barbeque to celebrate a birthday when my grandfather noticed a sunflower had grown in his backyard. He immediately started crying because he hadn't planted any, but one sunflower had coincidentally grown there. The weird part was that there was only one singular sunflower, and no one had planted the flower.
Whether you believe in spiritual powers or not, the family took it as a sign that my grandmother was okay. We all needed to know that our loving grandmother, who passed so quickly, was doing okay. Whether the sunflower grew there because a bird dropped a seed or a spiritual power, we will never know.
But one thing I do know is that every time a member of my family sees a sunflower, they are reminded of not only my grandmother but the love shared between my grandparents.
Sunflowers will forever bring my family peace and joy. Being surrounded by sunflowers brings on an enormous amount of serotonin and allowed my family to find positivity and happiness in a time of despair. Plants can bring on so much joy, whether it's a memory or simply because they are beautiful.
Haley is 18 and lives in Syracuse, New York. She currently attends SUNY Cortland and is a biology major.