Rev. Peter Fairbrother | Ministries in self-care
By any other name
It was the week after Mother's Day and I had travelled across the Irish Sea to visit my mum who resides in a nursing home in Northern Ireland.
My mum adores flowers. Roses and chrysanthemums are her favourites, and so I decided to bring her two big bunches of vibrant orange and pink blossoms to brighten her room.
On arrival I found that the two vases in her room already contained flowers given to her by others. These flowers were a little over a week old and on inspection I considered that some were past their best. So I set about sorting and grading them so that the best flowers from the two vases were contained within one vase, enabling me to use the other to hold the fresh flowers that I had brought.
Once I had completed the sorting, I bundled the faded flowers and took them from my mum’s room to a bin which was situated in the kitchen. Enroute I passed an elderly lady (another resident). At first she looked at me with curiosity and then with gentle indignation as I headed towards the bin.
'You can't bin those flowers' she exclaimed, 'they're beautiful.'
I stopped in my tracks, just as I was about to chuck them, and I turned to face her.
'I'll have them' she said.
'Well, some bits are rotten and many of the flowers have wilted' I responded, hesitantly.
She stared at me with piercing incredulity.
And so, reluctantly, I went over to her and put the bundle on the table next to where she was seated.
Quietly, meticulously, and with reverence, she delicately examined each of the stems. She then proceeded to peel away the soggy leaves and nip off the dead flower heads. She pointed out to me the tiny buds on the Freesia stems that had yet to blossom and the little chrysanthemum flowers waiting to yield their beauty, hidden behind the larger blooms which had peaked and shone their glory. I had overlooked these flowers.
And so I pulled over a chair and joined her. Together we assembled a delicate wee bouquet from the stems I had been all too eager to throw away. The lady was delighted. 'I will cherish them', she said as she left to take the flowers to her room.
How quick I was to discard beauty...
so fixated on the faded blossoms that I wasn't able to see the buds that were yet to unfold their beauty.
For a large part of my life I have been unable to connect to a sense of my own beauty.
I would see only the faded blossom, not the flower in bud.
My life has been dominated by the following scripts, played out with relentless frequency:
'I'm not good enough.'
'I'm not worthy.'
'I'm not beautiful.'
'I'm not loveable.'
'I'm not enough.'
When I started the training for interfaith ministry it didn't occur to me that to serve others one first has to be able to serve oneself; to love all parts of one's own being, even the fearful parts, and the parts one would rather flee from. A simple truth, but one I had been previously unable to see.
Subsequently, I've come to recognise life as the journey towards acceptance of all parts of the bouquet; from the brightest blooms to the wilted petals and the broken flowers and being grateful for it all.
Beauty in wholeness.
Beauty in recognising our perfection in essence.
Beauty in being at peace with one's self.
A few weeks after visiting my mother, I purchased a bouquet of roses for my own home. When I unwrapped the flowers from the packaging I noticed that a wee rosebud had broken from one of the stems. My first inclination was to bin it. Then I remembered the lady I had met and the bouquet she had created from the flowers I was about to throw away, and so I decided to keep the little bud as a reminder... A reminder to see beauty in all things. I have placed the little bud here, pictured above, so that its beauty may shine for all to see.