Read Part 1 HERE
One of the most vivid memories of my early childhood is of the bleeding-heart flowers in my paternal grandfather’s backyard. These delicate, beautiful flowers absolutely captivated and intrigued me. Their shape was so intentional and so perfect – dainty little puffy pink hearts, each with a tiny little teardrop extending from the bottom, as if the heart was bleeding or crying. There was just something about them that seemed divine, like they were not simply flowers that emerged out of the earth to look pretty and spread pollen, but they were created, actually and intentionally created, to stand out and have existential meaning and purpose for us, for me. In my grandfather’s backyard, in the center of a world that seemed ugly and apathetic to the existence of myself or my family, was this symbol of hope and love, but it was not unaffected by the cold, cruel world. It was crying. It was bleeding. In spite of its pain, it was beautiful, and it was perfect.
My grandparents always stood out to me as exceptional people. They were kind, humble, and innocent in a way that always felt foreign to me. Who they were at their core, in their essence, was who many people, myself included, can only strive or pretend to be. They were not complicated people. They were just decent and good. It did not appear to be a struggle for them to be so. They just were who they were, and the world was not going to change that. They were like the bleeding-heart flowers in my grandfather’s garden. Surrounded by a world that was so often confusing and unkind, they were there for me as a symbol of purity and love, not unaffected by the world around them, but transcendent of it.
The bleeding hearts in my grandfather’s garden have always stuck in my memory as an image I can conjure when I want to remember my grandparents and my childhood with them. As I grew up and they passed away, I could think about a simple, perfect little flower in the middle of Prospect Park, NJ and it would bring them back to me for a moment.
Early in my marriage, with a home of my own in the middle of Annapolis, I mentioned these flowers and my memories to my mother one day. “I have your grandfather’s bleeding-heart flowers in my yard,” she said. “When we moved to Maryland,” she continued “your grandfather gave me a cutting from his plants to plant at our house here. When we sold that house, I took cuttings from that plant to my new house. You can have some cuttings to plant in your yard if you like.”
Just like that, a physical part of my grandparents’ lives re-manifested into my own. My grandfather’s bleeding-heart flower, the one I loved so much as a child, found its way from Prospect Park, NJ, through Glenwood, MD and Woodbine, MD, to mine and my wife’s first home in Annapolis, and my grandparents were right there with us, to look over us and bless us with their love.
Read Part 3 HERE
Written by Robert Van Valkenburgh, Co-Founder of Kogen Dojo & Taikyoku Mind and Body