“Patience and Light,” Ensign, Sept. 1993, 50–51
As I pushed the old wooden trunk to one side, I spotted something on the floor behind it. In the poorly lighted storage shed, the object appeared to be an empty plant pot. I leaned down to pick it up and discovered the dried remains of a small aloe vera plant, minus almost all of its potting soil. How it got there was a mystery. I carried it to the trash box that contained the other debris from my spring cleaning rampage. During the remainder of the cleaning, I also found a forgotten amaryllis, still in its pre-Christmas package. Certain that it too must be dead, I tossed it in the trash.
Once I had finished cleaning the shed, I carried the box of debris to the dumpster. But just as I was preparing to heave it in, a vague sense of remorse settled over me. Saddened by the thought that two plants had died of neglect, I began to imagine a towering amaryllis, with red flowers clustered at the top; I pictured a succulent, wide-branching aloe vera, with its useful, soothing leaves. What if they weren’t completely dead? I wondered.
Upon closer inspection, the aloe appeared to yet have one leaf that might be alive. The plant had lived for months on the precious gel stored in its fleshy leaves. Perhaps there was still time to revive it. It was worth a try. What did I stand to lose? Just a handful of soil and a little time.
The amaryllis looked hopeless. Sustained by its instinct to survive, it had begun to send out leaves, only to find no light. The leaves were pale and wilted from lack of food and water. Without light, it had been unable to use its chlorophyll cells to produce food. But even so, it had sent out another sprout from the side of the large bulb, attempting to grow another plant, in a desperate search for light somewhere else. The slender sprout was long and unlike the parent plant, but it too was white and wilted from the darkness.
Hopefully, I took both plants to the house and set about repotting them with fertile soil and an ample supply of water. Then I set them on the sill in my bright kitchen window. At first, nothing happened. Several days passed, and there appeared to be no change and no hope that they would survive. In fact, the aloe looked even worse. Evidently, it had sucked all the remaining juices from the faded leaves back into the base, and the leaves died. The amaryllis still looked white and lifeless. Among the other green and blooming plants on the sill, these two were mere ragged remnants that distracted from the beauty. Nevertheless, I had promised myself I would try.
Days passed, and I continued my attempts to revive the plants; after all, they took hardly any time or effort. One day, I picked up the pot with the aloe plant in it and looked for signs of life. I could see a hint of green but still no leaves. The amaryllis, too, was pale and unchanged. Something told me that I must continue to be patient.
After a while, my care of the plants became kind of second nature, and I worried less about seeing immediate results. Surely after so long a time of neglect, I could give time for recovery. Engrossed in other things, I didn’t notice the first small, tender aloe leaf, nor the second. Likewise, I have no idea when the amaryllis finally turned green. I was busy with other things. It was my older son’s amazed gasp one day that made us all turn and look at the two plants.
Once the aloe established a new root system, it was ready to send out leaves to gather more energy. It has since become a spectacular specimen, has produced other new aloe plants, and has soothed several burned fingers.
It seems that the amaryllis is taking longer to react to the sunlight. It had been dormant so long that it remains in stasis—not dying, but not growing or flowering yet, either.
Healing varies; each living thing has its own rate of recovery. As each of us struggles toward the light, our Heavenly Father is much more patient than I have been with these two plants. And his love is much greater, his care much more tender.
The human spirit has a greater will to survive and grow toward the light than the humble aloe or amaryllis plant. As we search out the special wilted or dormant flowers in the Lord’s garden, we must give the kind of care each one needs, allowing them to become what they were meant to be.