My Mother's Roses
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The sun was just beginning to fall below the horizon as Dad and I hopped out of the Ford F-150 that he'd parked in a vacant patch of grass. By the time our feet landed on the gravel, the cold February air had already began tickling our lungs. In response, our breaths produced erratic puffs of fog back into the air. In front of my father and me, the oak treeline of Center Race Park cheerfully greeted us with its swaying branches. They probably felt lonely there. Especially after everyone fled to the warmth of their homes when the sun began to set.

For Dad and I though, it was a perfect February 14th.

Today was more than just some excuse for chocolates. It was also my parent's anniversary, their sixth one at that. Usually, my father would have taken Mom on a plane to somewhere more romantic and lavishing than here, like New York or Las Vegas. I would have been left at home, being closely watched by my aunt or grandmother. They would always try and have fun with me while my parents were away. But even without them, I'd persist until Dad and Mom returned home. I was always still upset afterward that I could never tag alongside them as they witnessed the glittering skyscrapers and breathtaking landmarks.

However, this year was different. Instead, Dad had conspired a surprise for my mother. Now here we both were, silently walking a dirt path that led deeper into the forest. There was really no need to talk. We both knew the plan. In my desperate clutches, a bouquet of fake roses bobbed alongside my exaggerated bounds and lunges. I happened to glance over towards my father. His brown beard carried a bright smile as we looked at each other.

Mom was a florist, and she loved many flowers. But she carried a particular soft-spot for roses. Every weekend when she came home, our car would always be packed with countless amounts of them. I don't think there was a time where our house wasn't filled with flowers. Dozens of beautiful plants and flora, sometimes even bundled together. "It makes everything so much better!" my Mom would say.

Now, my father and I had planned to surprise her with a few roses of our own. It was a simple gift, so he told me as we arrived. Regardless, these were specially made for her, as a small token of our appreciation. For her kindness or her gentle tone, even the way she made us laugh when something bad happened. Everything that one could possibly imagine from someone, we wanted to thank her for it all. Valentines was usually a day for couples. But today it was a moment for her. Our excitement could barely stay contained by widened grins as we progressed further to where she was.

Mom had no idea what was about to happen to her. And that's what he and I counted on.

After a moment Dad cleared his throat, briefly snapping me away from my train-of-thought. The snow crunched beneath our feet as our soles impacted the ground. It was an oddly peaceful sound. As we walked, the rhythm slowly drifted me back into my mind.

Soon I began to think about all of the times before this when Valentine's Day came around. Although I had always been too young to come with them, that never stopped my father from telling me all about their travels. He had made it clear that his favorite trip with Mom was to Paris, some few years back. It was their perfect place—a beautiful and extravagant city for an amazing occasion. He would ramble on and on, telling me every detail that he could recount. From the places they saw to the nooks and crannies that they discovered on their strolls through the city. He would even tell me the taste of the food and drinks at the restaurants they ate at, or how their hotel room had caught the skyline at just the right angle at night. Dad was so vivacious that I'd often ask for him to repeat his stories several more times as a kid. He could make you feel like you were right there with them, enjoying everything that Paris had to offer.

The wind suddenly began its onslaught, but only the roses responded to its call. At one point my father firmly grasped my shoulder, signaling that we were near our destination. After a few more steps, I could see my mother. She looked calm in her sat position, albeit somewhat confused with her furrowed brow. Mom's brown hair rocked carelessly around her shoulders as her light-blue eyes glanced over towards us. Her expression quickly shifted into gleeful shock as she realized who we were.

Dad and I both knew that our surprise had been successful. We quickened our paces as Mom cupped her hands over her mouth. I nearly lost my grip on the bouquet as we closed the gap that previously split us apart. My mother remained still as we finally made it over to her. Dad and I quickly glanced towards each other before I dropped the bundle of flowers on the ground.

I once again admired my mother. She looked amazing in her elegantly crafted dress and fur coat, even though I could see the bags under her eyes. She was always feeling sick or tired. But even while her fever rose and the exhaustion lingered, Mom was always there for us. Dad had once told me that no one else in the world could rival my Mom's beauty. In that moment, I actually started to believe him.

My mother was smiling at her roses now.

My father looked towards me again, the wind now settling. We both decided to sit down in front of her, the bouquet separating us. I could feel Dad's hand reach over my shoulder as he tugged me closer. The snow was also beginning to seep into my pant legs, but I didn't care. I was too happy to give any credence to the cold. Mom was still smiling. Her dark brown hair always covered a small portion of her face, preventing me from fully seeing her eyes. I simply responded to her with a smirk of my own.

She was only with us in spirit, after all. The mound that sat in her place was a painful reminder of that.

The mirage of my mother quickly faltered from my view as the realization began to kick in. I glanced upwards at her gravestone, noticing the engravings that had been inscribed below her name.

A WIFE, A MOTHER, AND AN AMAZING DAUGHTER. YOU FOUGHT HARD, AND YOU FOUGHT WELL. REST IN PEACE NOW. FOREVER AND ALWAYS.

It was only after this that I noticed the tears streaming down my cheeks. I quickly sniffled as snot dribbled down my nose. In an act of hope, I turned towards my father in fleeting desperation. My hands began to shake, but not from the cold. I think his stern eyes could tell that I was breaking.

"Dad," I whispered weakly. "Why did God have to make her go? Why her?"

My father's eyes lowered to his lap. There was a long pause. Dad's mind was entrenched in thought as I struggled to see him clearly through squinted eyes. After a few seconds of silence, I noticed his chest begin to heave, slow and deliberately. He quickly cleared his throat. My father then glanced towards my mother's grave before fully embracing me in his arms. I could feel his body tremble in my grasp as his voice quivered. His arms tightened around my body.

He responded, "Son, when you go into a garden, what flowers do you pick first?"

I froze in place as my eyes widened in disbelief. I didn't need to think much about it. My mother was a florist, and she had always talked about how she chose her flowers. It was never from random chance, nor from anything that could be considered evil. At that moment, I knew exactly what my father was trying to tell me. Everything made sense in a way that I could never truly explain. Before another thought could arise within my mind, I squeezed my father, hugging him as tightly as I could. We remained there for an eternity, each of us now battling through choked sobs and ragged breaths. In our wails, I felt so much closer to Dad than I had ever been before.

It was during those few moments that I somehow found my voice again, buried in his chest and in front of my mother's gravestone.

"The most beautiful ones."


































Happy Valentines Day, Mom. I think you would've loved those roses.

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