“The old that is strong does not wither. Deep roots are not reached by the frost.”
— J. R. R. Tolkien
I quoted from this poem in an earlier post, but recently its timeless words have been on my mind again. I was reminded of these particular lines by the daffodils in my yard. Daffodils are my favorite flowers, toughing out the cold and blooming before the weather warms up enough to justify their bright optimism. Year after year, they prove that the frost doesn’t kill everything.
The doubles I planted years ago have been disappointing outdoors, though. They are so beautifully full that they have a hard time holding their heads up when they reach peak bloom. They generally nosedive to the ground just when they look prettiest. (Does anyone have any hints how to solve this? It would take a lot of stakes to hold them all up.)
The other day, I was so sad seeing them all lying face down in the foliage that I decided to do what some gardeners have told me not to do: cut them and bring them inside. I figured they were nearly gone anyway, and I wanted to enjoy them.
I was surprised to find that not only had they retained their lush beauty, but with the support of a crystal bud vase, they kept their showy splendor for over a week indoors, far longer than my ordinary daffodils ever do. I simply bound them together loosely to help support their weight, and they brought me joy every time I saw them. They even traveled from York to Alexandria wrapped in a wet paper towel, and arrived none the worse for wear.
That got me thinking about how people often are like that. Sometimes the very virtues that make us remarkable can also act as liabilities, holding us back or wearing us out unless we get the support we need.
This is especially true as we grow older. While each of us experiences the loss of some of our physical or mental abilities, it seems that everyone has areas where they remain strong, and these traits do not wither. In fact, many of them, such as wisdom, patience or compassion, grow stronger with age. Like the gorgeous blooms of the drooping daffodils, that which is strong in us sometimes remains with us until we die, no matter how beset with illness or infirmity we grow.
I once knew a lovely lady who had the best manners of anyone I had ever seen. Just being around her inspired me to want to be more gracious and polite. Her kindness and courtesy remained with her to the end of her days, endearing her to the health care staff who attended to her needs through years of living with Alzheimer’s disease.
We all have known people who remained astoundingly strong in the face of grave illness, mentally sharp even when dealing with physical decline, or resolutely cheerful despite lacking abilities that most of us would consider necessary for happiness. Often, their challenges and losses mean they require a bit of extra support, but the beauty of their unique gifts shines on, blessing all who are lucky enough to know them.