Back when I was in middle school, we did a little in-school project where each student broke off a single segment from a large Christmas cactus and planted it in a styrofoam cup filled with sand. Over the years my little plant grew and grew. It moved from one pot to another slightly bigger pot. My cactus survived through adolescence, through high school, through college, through graduate school, and through marriage. Wherever I called home, you could be sure my cactus was there. It was, in some strange way, a part of me. Maybe this was because it was with me through so many different and varied stages of my life. When my life fell apart a few years ago, somehow my cactus decided to mirror my attitude to stop living, to give up. What was once both healthy and vibrant, turned limp and lifeless. The loss of my faithful plant five years ago was just another in a string of losses at that time. All that remained was the empty pot, collecting dust in my garage. Given the association with the death of this plant, I never for a moment entertained the thought of replacing it.
For my most recent birthday, my daughter bought me a gift card. When she gave me the card, she said that she wanted me to replace my cactus. She knew it was important to me. I was impressed that she even remembered my attachment to it. It was a wonderful idea on her part and I felt deeply loved and honored by her. She knew it would help to lift my spirits.
When we went to the store to purchase the cactus, we looked around the garden section, up and down the aisles multiple times. We could not find a single specimen anywhere. Just when we were about to give up, we stopped to rest. That's when my daughter espied a single cactus plant nestled back on a shelf, hidden from view. We knew we had fulfilled our quest. As we walked up to checkout at the far end of the store, we came upon a whole cart of the same plant. My daughter asked if I wanted to look for a better one or one with different color flowers. We looked at each other and knew that the one that she found, the one that she was carrying in her arms, was the only one for us.