When her grandmother’s health began to deteriorate in the fall of 1994, Mary would make the drive from Washington, DC to Winchester, VA every few days.
She hated highway driving, finding it ugly and monotonous. She preferred to take meandering back roads to her grandmother’s hospital. When she drove through the rocky town of Harpers Ferry, the beauty of the rough waters churning at the intersection of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers always captivated her.
Toward the end of her journey, Mary had to get on highway 81. It was here that she discovered a surprising bit of beauty during one of her trips. Along the median of the highway, there was a long stretch of wildflowers. They were thin and delicate and purple, and swayed in the wind as if whispering poems to each other.
The first time she saw the flowers, Mary was seized by an uncontrollable urge to pull over on the highway and yank a bunch from the soil. She carried them into her grandmother’s room when she arrived at the hospital and placed them in a water pitcher by her bed.
For a moment her grandmother seemed more lucid than usual. She thanked Mary for the flowers, commented on their beauty and asked where she had gotten them. Mary was overjoyed by the ability of the flowers to wake something up inside her ailing grandmother.
Afterwards, Mary began carrying scissors in the car during her trips to visit her grandmother. She would quickly glide onto the shoulder, jump out of the car, and clip a bunch of flowers. Each time Mary placed the flowers in the pitcher, her grandmother’s eyes would light up and they would have a splendid conversation.
One morning in late October, Mary got a call that her grandmother had taken a turn for the worse. Mary was in such a hurry to get to her grandmother that she sped past her flower spot. She decided to turn around, head several miles back, and cut a bunch.
Mary arrived at the hospital to find her grandmother very weak and unresponsive. She placed the flowers in the pitcher and sat down to hold her grandmother’s hand. She felt a squeeze on her fingers. It was the last conversation they had.