I started planting marigolds in my garden back in 1995. My garden was so beautiful; I would spend hours out there every day - deadheading marigolds and petunias, pulling weeds, watering. I was so very proud of my garden.
In early Spring of 1996, we brought our son Jonathan home. He was ten months old. We were already the parents of Katie, a special needs child whom we had adopted at the age of 3 1/2 months. Our life was full. But bringing Jonathan home sort of "wrapped everything up" for us. We felt complete.
Katie and Jonathan loved each other so much, and it was fun being their parents. Katie was progressing well in school - learning to talk better, eating (sometimes), and learning how to be in relationship with people. She was definitely bonded to us. We were so happy.
On Mother's Day, 1996, we brought Jonathan home "for good." He and Katie sat in a chair in our living room and let us take their picture. The really loved each other, from the first moment they met. They shared a room and toys and a swing set. Not much got between either one of them. They were great, being brother and sister by adoption. We, as parents, were even better.
When Katie was in second grade, she got in the habit of picking a few marigolds from my garden to take to her teacher every day. I never discouraged her; what could it hurt? Every morning, until the frost killed them, she would walk out the door and pick some flowers on her way to catch the bus. I never talked to her teacher about it, but part of me knew that her teacher must love this daily offering.
This same school year, on February 16, 1998, Katie died. It was a holiday - Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Katie had been sick with a cold, but nothing we thought was too serious. We had been in touch with her doctor. They didn't even want us to bring her to the clinic because of all the respiratory viruses going around. So we just took care of her the best we knew how. The night before she died, I fed her warm, liquid jell-o because she liked it.
The next morning, she asked me to come and lie down with her. I took her to her bed and said, "I'll be right back. Let me put on a Barney video for Jonathan." So I did. In the few minutes that it took me to do that, Katie died. When I went into her room, she was unresponsive. I immediately called 911 and started mouth-to-mouth, only to hear bubbling sounds come from her lungs. The fire department was there in less than two minutes. Everything they tried was to no avail. Paramedics showed up a few minutes later. Nothing was working.
"What is happening?" I kept wondering. Jonathan crawled up the stairs after hearing the footsteps from above. I picked him up and held him. As it turns out, he didn't miss a thing...this 2 1/2 year old boy remembers almost every moment of that morning.
I called Warren to tell him to come home. He did. The paramedics took Katie in the ambulance; Warren rode with her. Somebody gave me a ride to the hospital. By the time I got there, the chaplain was waiting for me. I knew, riding to the hospital, that my little girl was not going to make it.
By some miracle, we were able to contact our family members...except for my and Warren's parents. My parents were in Illinois visiting my brother; Warren's parents were in Africa working at an orphanage. But those of us who were nearby gathered together and held hands and prayed in the ER room where Katie lay. Warren and I cut some of her hair, as keepsakes.
What does this have to do with marigolds, you might ask? Well, the next day when word began to spread about Katie's death, her teacher called me. "Mrs. Hicks, I have called every florist I can find in every part of the United States and nobody has any marigolds!" She was beside herself, needing to give marigolds back to me as an expression of her love for Katie.
So...after almost 13 years of missing my little girl, she still makes me smile when I see a marigold. And there's nothing I love more than giving a bouquet of marigolds to someone I love.
And that's all I'm going to say tonight. If you read this, God bless you...and thank you. Now you know me, for what it's worth.