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March 7, 2011

A dear lady, Helen Babb lived in the country between Greer and Gowansville. Mrs. Babb loved beautiful flowers. In the late summer, wild flowers covered an area near the old barn. They reseeded each year, multiplying in number and in beauty. In the early spring, Helen Babb’s yard featured bright yellow jonquils, the petite relatives of daffodils. They, too, spread each year flowing like a graceful yellow ribbon down a gentle slope.

After Mrs. Babb’s death several years ago, her daughter knew that she would have to sell the home place. She wanted to save some of the heirloom flowers for her own yard in Spartanburg. In the fall, she dug up a box full of the jonquil bulbs, many more than she needed. She shared some with me. On a rainy cold November afternoon, I planted the bulbs on an embankment near the waterfall in my garden. In late February each year, the tiny flowers put on a magnificent display.

Daffodils and their smaller Spanish cousins, jonquils, dance in the wind. Once the daffodils bloom, there can be no doubt that the seasons are changing. It is as if the nodding trumpet-shaped flowers herald the arrival of spring.

When I think of daffodils, Gene comes to mind. Gene was a dear friend who grew up on a farm in Cherokee County, South Carolina. His success with the family business enabled him to build a comfortable home on the family farm within a stone’s throw of the old home place.  The beautiful new house had a wrap-around porch, graced with big rocking chairs. Visitors approached the home by a long driveway, flanked on the left by a horse pasture and a weathered barn. Up a hill to the right was the foundation of the former home.  In the early spring, this hill was covered with bright yellow daffodils. Originally planted by Gene’s mother around the old farmhouse, the daffodils naturalized, spreading helter-skelter down the hillside.  Each year the flowers still bloom from late February through March. The yellow-splotched hill is a sight to behold.

A few years ago, after several months of increasingly serious health problems, it became clear that Gene was quite ill.  The diagnosis was a rapidly growing, rare form of cancer.  In mid-March, Gene went home from the hospital. On a bright, warm Sunday afternoon, Gene asked if he could see the daffodils.  Surrounded by his loving wife, children, and several grandchildren, Gene was transported by wheelchair down the driveway near the barn.  He sat quietly for a few moments, taking in the sight of the hillside covered in delicate yellow blooms dancing in the breeze.  Three days later Gene died.

At the graveside in a country churchyard, the children and grandchildren each placed a daffodil, picked from the hillside, atop the polished wooden casket.  Even though yellow daffodils bring to mind bittersweet memories, they will be a perennial symbol of hope for Gene’s family.

Kirk H. Neely
© March 2011

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