Having become perfect in a short while,
he reached the fullness of a long career;
for his soul was pleasing to the LORD,
therefore he sped him out of the midst of wickedness.
The now quiet old man has grown accustomed to the deepening heat of spring that has accompanied him throughout the century he has lived. The warm spring breeze gently lifts the thin white hair from his weathered scalp. His gaunt, wrinkled hand, mottled with brown spots, rests gently on his chest as his breath slowly rises and falls. Not a day goes by when a neighbor cannot find the ancient man taking a nap under the rustling leaves of the grand live oak tree in his back yard.
Each day he rests and prays as he marvels at the humming birds fluttering about furiously in the grand rose garden he planted so many decades ago. This quiet hideaway has become his place of solitude and prayer. A place to remember and be thankful.
With the gentle closing of his eyes, he is aware that each nap could be his last. His slow, steady and restful breath brings the peace of a lifetime lived and storms overcome. God has been good to him. Far better than he has deserved.
It has been over a decade since his bride of more than a half century has left this earth. He has also outlived all of his siblings and most of his friends. Out of concern and love each day, on a rotating schedule, he is visited by one of his children or grandchildren. Their visits are his treasured lifeline to independence in these last few years.
God has granted his wish, made 55 years ago at the birth of his last child, to see all of his grandchildren. In that time he has witnessed the breakdown and recovery of society, the birth of 18 grandchildren, the death of his spouse and the reawakening of faith in his country. He now waits, prays for for final perseverance and his final wish in this life. He is ready now, praying that each day brings him closer to his own judgement. A judgment, believing in God’s mercy, he has long hoped for.
Footsteps in the distance jostle the old man from his nap. Sitting up, his antique rosary falls from its resting place on his chest. A young man, one of his grandsons, he thinks, has come to help with the gardening. Each Friday, the young man arrives in the mid-afternoon hour to give aid to the aging old soul.
The young man has a regal appearance. Tall, with a ruddy complexion, his deep brown eyes shine withhold flecks and wisdom beyond His years. He exudes a strength and humility that draws close all those who take the time to get to know Him. The young man loves him beyond the old man’s understanding. Sadly, the old man cannot recall his name.
In the last decade, since his wife’s passing, the old man has shared much of his century long life story with the regal young man. Suffices to say, He knows the old man so well that He appears to know his thoughts before they are spoken. His regular Friday afternoon presence has brought much joy to his well worn old home.
Smiling, the old man say’s, “What today?”
In a strong soothing baritone voice, the young man replies, “It’s time for the final pruning of the rose bush. Just rest and I will do the work.”
The old man knows he need not respond and sinks back into his resting spot. As much as he hates to prune the bush when it is in its full glory, he knows, much like the storms of his own life have done for him, the pruning increases the strength, life and vigor of the bush.
The rose bush in question has grown large and beautiful. Its coloring is unique among all the bushes. The large coffee mug sized blooms fade from a bright fluorescent pink to a deep, velvet like lavender. He had planted the bush for his wife when she first fell ill. They were both astonished when the first rose burst from its casing and grew more brilliant with each day. Throughout each year, every blush of new roses fills the old man’s back the yard with a sweet reminder of his wife.
The regal young man moves toward the rose bush stationed at its place of honor in the far corner of the yard. While the old man watches from his place of comfort under the tree, the young man lights a small fire in a nearby iron barrel, places a simple wicker basket on the ground, kneels next to the bush and pulls his pruning shears from His gardener’s belt.
The old man remarks, “New clippers.”
“No, sir. I have used them many times before. They are special clippers given to me by my Father.” the young man calls out from the corner of the yard.
The sheers appear to be unblemished by age. The sharp, curved edges glisten as if made of diamonds and platinum. The spring hinged handles are translucent and formed from amber. Unlike any he has ever seen, the old man thinks, ‘Those must have been some expensive clippers.’
The bush has grown quickly with the early warming of spring and is in full bloom. The young man selects the smaller roses and cuts them gingerly about six inches below the blooms. Each rose he gently lays to rest in the golden brown wicker basket. As he lays the first rose in the basket, he inhales the sweet fragrance and smiles broadly enjoying its simple perfection. He repeats this action each time for the more than twenty small roses.
After the smaller roses are removed, he begins cutting away the twigs that have produced no roses from the bush. Each one he examines as if to give it an opportunity to bloom. With the exception of a few heavily leafed twigs, the majority are tossed into the burning barrel creating a light gray smoke.
As the twigs are being consumed by the fire, the young man methodically cut the eight large remaining flowers. He places the most beautiful flower on the ground next to His knee. The other seven large roses are also particularly brilliant. The color of their petals reflects the radiance of the spring sun. As the young man lays the roses in the basket, He stops to examine their beauty. Leaning over the basket, He runs His forefinger over the velvety surface of the their petals. Clearly an act of admiration.
From a distance the bush now looks bare and haggard. The young man continues his quest of trimming the once bountiful bush. Upon close examination He finds four crusty, rotting stalks. Without hesitation, he bends each stalk and cuts it at its base. The young man does not give the four stalks a moment of consideration and throws them into the flames. The limbs cut from the bush are large enough to cause the flames from the barrel to rise above its edges, red hot and accompanied by a black billowing smoke. Both men nod as if some sort of justice has been achieved.
All that remains of the bush is eight thick healthy stalks. Trimmed and healthy, the special bush is ready for another long growing season. Though the bush has been stripped of all its vestiges, both men look on knowing it will produce extraordinary roses in the future.
Mission accomplished, the young man picks up the basket of roses and the single rose from the ground. From across the yard He calls to the old man, “Are you ready for our journey?”
As the young man approaches the seated old soul, He hands him the large vibrant rose. With bitter sweet emotion, the man inhales the perfume from the rose. Tears begin to well up in his eyes as he remembers the day the bush was planted so long ago.
Hesitant, the old man replies with his usually attempt at wit, “As ready as I will ever be.” As he rises from his chair and gives the young man a grandfatherly hug.
The taping of their feet can be heard as they round the corner of the weathered brick path he had laid with his sons a few years back. At the gate they are met by a beautiful young woman who smiles and embraces the old man. Without another word they walk slowly away from the old man’s home.
Within minutes of their leaving, his youngest daughter arrives at the family home where she grew up. With her is her own late in life child, a son. Her father often thought of how much she is like her mother. She has a certain strength and confidence at her core. She is also a nurturer like her mother.
As they exit her vehicle she turns to her son, “Help me get the food for Papa.”
Her son, small for a 12 year old, with bright red hair and emerald green eyes, carries himself with the joy and exuberance of a young man his age, “Sure Mom! Papa is going to be excited that you made his favorite: roast, rice and gravy.”
Letting themselves in the family home, they pause. ‘This old Home holds so many life giving memories.’ She thinks. Then, without a worry in the world, they busily begin to set the table for dinner.
Table set and food served on white dinner plates, the same ones her mother had always used, she tells her son, “Ok, let’s go get Papa.” They were quite sure”Papa” would be sitting under the oak tree. As they leave the house, the scent of the hot pot roast mixes with the aroma of sweet roses.
She calls out to her father, “Dad, dinner is ready.”
She waits, listens intently and hears no response from her father. “Dad?”
Turning the corner and looking for him in his usual resting place under the oak tree. “Dad, are you hungry?”
Kneeling next to his chair and taking his hand in her’s, she releases his hand from a beautiful, thornless, long stem rose and his rosary. “Dad?”
His still warm hand placed on her cheek, much like he has done all her life, she can see that his chest no longer rises and falls peacefully. Tears filling her sparkling hazel eyes as wisps of her thick brown hair lift in the spring breeze, she weeps gently with her hand in his, “Oh Dad, I am sorry I was not here.”
Her son, ever the optimist, his own bright green eye flowing with tears, comforts her with his arm around her shoulders, “Mom, it is going to be ok. I think he was ready. Don’t you? Do you think he got his wish?”
Smiling with a sense of joy and tears still flowing, “I am sure of it, son. Let’s say a prayer for him and then we will call your dad.”
As the spring sun beams through the powerful branches of the 100 year old oak tree and holding his grandfather’s rosary next to his heart, her son begins, “Hail Mary, full of grace…”
Prayer to obtain final perseverance
Eternal Father, I humbly adore Thee, and thank Thee for having created me, and for having redeemed me through Jesus Christ. I thank Thee most sincerely for having made me a Christian, by giving me the true faith, and by adopting me as Thy son, in the sacrament of baptism. I thank Thee for having, after the numberless sins I had committed, waited for my repentance, and for having pardoned (as I humbly hope) all the offenses which I have offered to Thee, and for which I am now sincerely sorry, because they have been displeasing to Thee, who art infinite goodness. I thank Thee for having preserved me from so many relapses, of which I would have been guilty if Thou hadst not protected me. But my enemies still continue, and will continue till death, to combat against me, and to endeavor to make me their slave. If Thou dost not constantly guard and succor me with thy aid, I, a miserable creature, shall return to sin, and shall certainly lose Thy grace. I beseech Thee, then, for the love of Jesus Christ, to grant me holy perseverance unto death. Jesus, Thy Son, has promised that Thou wilt grant whatsoever we ask in his name. Through the merits, then, of JesusChrist, I beg, for myself and for all the just, the grace never again to be separated from Thy love, but to love Thee forever, in time and eternity. Mary, Mother of God, pray to Jesus for me. by St. Alphonsus Ligouri
JMJ, Pray for us!
God is good!