Well, last week’s column featuring my wife Mary Anna’s tribute to her beloved pink peony sure caught the attention of one of our longtime coffee companions, Rabbi Shaul Osadchey, formerly of Calgary and now back in Houston, Tx. Rabbi Shaul responded:
I ENJOYED another inspiring column, which evoked my own peony memories from decades ago. Here is the story:
My wife and I were friends of a couple who had been dating for nine years and finally decided to marry. They asked me to co-officiate the ceremony which was to take place at the home of the bride in Monroe, Louisiana. The ceremony was to be held in the small Reform synagogue in the city and then the reception would take place at the bride’s parents’ home. The ceremony was lovely, but the reason for the reception being at the parents’ house at that particular time of year had to do with the landscaping: the expansive backyard that sloped down to the bayou was filled with blooming peonies of all colors! It was an explosion of awe and beauty – truly breathtaking!
The bride and groom arrived at the reception on a houseboat with a Dixie Jazz band playing and walked from the dock through a phalanx of magnificent peonies in full bloom! It certainly evoked great feelings of love and a bond between the couple and their guests and among the guests.
As Mary Anna noted, the blooms wilted and dropped in the days after the wedding. However, their petals enriched the soil from which the couple built a beautiful family with several children. (The bride gave birth to their first child nine months after the wedding!) Though the peony petals dropped, the peony itself is a perennial plant and the love that day reappeared every subsequent year when new blooms emerged.
Thank you for stirring the recollection of that wedding symbolized by the peonies and the gratitude and blessing that arose with that couple’s love and commitment which remains alive and active to this day!
AND THANK YOU, Rabbi Shaul, for sharing this inspiring recollection. It brings to mind a piece of floral wisdom inspired, it seems, by another event in Jewish history: “Bloom where you’re planted.”
Around 400 years ago, St. Francis de Sales, then Catholic bishop of Geneva, was reflecting on the Jewish community’s captivity in Babylon in the 6th Century BC. Biblical passages, such as Jeremiah 27:4–7, caught his attention. The prophet, addressing the exiles in their captivity, says:
“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.… Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
The bishop commented: “Truly charity has no limit; for the love of God has been poured into our hearts by His Spirit dwelling in each one of us, calling us to a life of devotion and inviting us to bloom in the garden where He has planted and directing us to radiate the beauty and spread the fragrance of His Providence.”
May it be so with each of us, too, regardless of the circumstances we may find ourselves in. May we all bloom where the Creator has planted us and radiate the sacred beauty.
© 2023 Warren Harbeck
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