The Last Rose

by Brenda E Holmes


Rosemary sat by her window, day after day, watching the beautiful red rose unfold into its full glory. Feeling the effects of her illness, she fantasized as she watched the rose, that as it started to fade and die, so would she fade and slip into death.

The specialist had been kind and gentle with his words but they had held a finality that could not be ignored. The cancer had spread and the drugs and surgeries had not done enough to slow the relentless onslaught of this insidious disease.

Out in the public eye, she had managed to put on a brave face but in the quiet confines of her rooms, she had railed against the injustice of her being struck by this accursed killer. A killer, who seemed to strike at random and with bittersweet irony, taking victims from every age and sex and station in life.

Rosemary rose and stood, looking  at the  flower. So beautiful and vibrant, almost fearless in its proud glory. Here it was, hanging on to life and slowly opening its petals a little bit each day until it had achieved its present state. It was the first thing she looked for in the morning and the last thing she noticed before the sun set in the evening. On days when the pain kept her in bed and her spirits were so low, she’d ask her friend Mary to look for her and check to see if the rose had started dropping its petals and giving into the inevitable decay.

She and Mary had been friends since they were both little girls and had been drawn together because of the similarity of their names ,especially since Mary’s middle name was Rose,named after both her grandmothers. As kids, they laughed and giggled over “Rosemary and Mary Rose “ but had kept their friendship close and had even gotten closer after having families and living through the inevitable teenage years with their kids and ,in Mary’s case, the sudden and shocking loss of her husband Lee to a massive heart attack. Rosemary’s loss was less sudden but still painful because she hadn’t lost her husband to death,just to apathy,he simply quit caring about her but both of them had survived and even thrived.

Thinking about the memories, both good and bad, had occupied Rosemary all during the early morning hours, hours when most people were sound asleep but with the pain and discomfort of cancer, deep sleep had become almost impossible and she spent many an hour wide awake or barely drowsing. This morning, because she had yet another appointment at the oncologists office, she had awakened early for Mary was picking  her up and taking her to have blood work done.


As Mary entered the kitchen where she sat drinking her kombucha tea  ,     Rosemary remarked to her friend , “ Have you seen the red rose outside my bedroom window? I keep thinking that it would fade and die as this horrible cancer causes my body to decline  but we’re both still here. I’ve never had a rose bloom so long .”

Mary shrugged and ushered her friend outside and, noticing how her friend seemed to rally when she gazed at the rose, thought to herself ,why couldn’t she keep that rose alive? If Rosemary was so insistent that she’d fade as the flower faded and die when it died, why not keep it alive? Why not see if Rosemary’s mind could overcome what her body couldn’t?

She’d heard all her life about unbelievable things happening to people in impossible situations and it was worth a try. If it failed, all she would have done was give her best friend a beautiful last memory to take with her to the afterlife and what harm was that? She’d really have to figure something out soon but ,right now, she had more important things to do . During the day, the rose dilemma kept popping up but with all that was going on, it soon faded and she forgot all about it.

This continued on for weeks until even Rosemary, finally started to realize the improbability of this flower remaining so alive and vibrant in the midst of winter cold. What was keeping it going, living on long after the rest of the rosebushes had shed their flowers and leaves and gone dormant preparing for next spring when they would spring forth again bursting with life? Was some kind of magic happening or had God decided that the rose would be the last memory of the color of this world Rosemary would take with her into Heaven? Rosemary didn’t know but she didn’t question what was happening for since the rose seemed to keep its strength, so did she.

The oncologist had left a message on her cell phone that the latest test results were back and he needed to consult with her in person as this information simply couldn’t just be left on a voicemail. Cold chills ran down her arms as she contemplated what kind of news he had. Good news she could handle and really she could handle the other but she had been doing so much better lately, it couldn’t be bad. It just couldn’t be the knowledge that the end was near.

Her energy levels had been high lately, she’d been getting out more and had even felt up to attending the Christmas cantata at the Methodist church. After the service, so many people had come up to her and hugged her or had offered prayer that she had almost floated home on the good feelings. Even her friends who professed no belief had been calling and sharing good wishes  so no, it just had to be positive news.

As Mary Rose drove her little car carefully into the parking lot at the medical center, Rosemary breathed deeply for she knew ,one way or another , today was going to be a milestone . Stepping out of the car, she walked slowly into the office ,wanting to prolong the not knowing  just a bit  but finally she stood before the cute receptionist who closely resembled a famous actress known for her blonde curls and infectious giggle and gave her name.

Glory , the receptionist, widened her eyes and exclaimed, ” Oh Miss Rosemary, you go right on back! He’s already waiting on you in his office!” and she smiled. Grabbing the door handle, Rosemary held out a hand to Mary to come with her and they walked down the hall to the open office door. Behind his wide desk, her oncologist sat with her test results spread out before him and a puzzled but happy look on his young face.

” Not sure precisely why but your cancer is shrinking rapidly. When you started treatment, I told you how invasive the tumors were and the chances of the treatments working on that stage of cancer but against the odds ,you are winning this battle. If you keep going like this, your cancer should be gone and in remission by spring.  Whatever else you are doing besides the meds, keep doing it because it is working. I tell so many the bad news , but today I get to bring a smile to a patients face and it feels good!”

A large sigh eased out of Rosemary as she realized what he was telling her, she wasn’t going to die, life wasn’t through with her yet and  everything was going to be okay  for it was at that precise moment that she figured out the secret behind the rose. The brilliant red rose whose color never faded and who had stood against the odds beneath her window bringing hope. Looking at Mary and the doctor, her eyes welling with happy tears , she knew that it was God using that flower and all the love and support of her family and friends to awaken her will to fight the disease that had tried to rob her life. Her joy every morning upon seeing the pretty rose made it hard for the nasty cancer cells to feed on her and victory was hers.

As they left the building and made their way back to the house, she couldn’t wait to see her yard . She was going to clip that bloom and preserve it to remind her to never give up. To keep fighting and keep positive for that was half the battle when it came to diseases like cancer. As  Mary pulled into the driveway,  Rosemary cried out for the rose was gone and not just the rose but the entire bush was missing and the ground sat bare as if a bush  had never been planted there. They both sat there, in the car , opened mouthed and flabbergasted as they knew they’d both seen the rosebush and the individual rose when they left earlier and now it was just not there. No tire marks on the yard, no sign of someone removing the plant ,just grass covered the ground where hours before a bush with a single red rose had stood.

Looking into each others eyes, they both agreed without saying a word that a miracle had occurred and given the outcome, they weren’t going to quibble over the how or why but accept the outcome and give thanks . ” Mary, let’s go back into town, I feel the need to do something good for someone else and the food bank needs donations and the afternoon is just starting!”

Sometimes, miracles just happen but most times we humans need to help them along by not defeating our own selves .



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