Today, at the supermarket I walked past a delightful display of pansies for sale. I was immediately transported in my mind to my childhood and my grandmother’s beautiful flower garden. Both my grandmother and grandfather were excellent gardeners. They grew their flowers like vegetables—in stunning rows. People would often slow down as they drove by so they could drink in the sight. My grandmother seldom picked any of her flowers. She said she preferred to leave them in the ground where they would last longer and everyone could enjoy them. One day when I was very young, I convinced her with my wide-eyed appeals to let me pick a bunch of flowers to put in a vase. I was so excited when she finally gave in.

I went outside and picked several different colors of my favorite flower, pansies. I brought them inside my grandmother’s home. I dutifully trimmed the stems and began arranging them in the small vase we had picked out. To my horror, every time I put a pansy in the vase, it would promptly fall out. I had cut the stems too short! I could feel my face flush with frustration and sadness. I was panicked. I had ruined everything. Tears welled up in my eyes at my failure.

At this point, my grandmother came in and saw her pathetic granddaughter at the height of what I felt was a hopeless disaster. I knew she would try to comfort me but that wasn’t going to make it better. To my surprise, she said very little—no scolding or criticism whatsoever. Instead, she gathered up all of my flowers and performed a miracle. She filled a shallow crystal bowl with water and ingeniously helped me create a floating bouquet of beautiful short-stemmed pansies. It was gorgeous—even more beautiful than I had originally planned. Joy and gratitude replaced my tears. I love my grandmother dearly. Her act of love, consideration, and forgiveness changed me forever.

Since that time I have seen many instances when perfectly good intentions, a happy marriage, or a promising relationship, have been potentially destroyed by someone carelessly cutting the stems too short. People in relationships can and will make mistakes. Forgiveness can seem difficult, most often because we know it can’t fix everything. However, you still have a choice. You can work with your loved one and create something beautiful or you can throw it all in the trash. From my experience, the last option never pays.

My grandmother taught me a lot about forgiveness that day. Forgiveness won’t re-grow stems on flowers and it can’t always repair damage done in a relationship. But if you forgive and work together without throwing it all away, you may still be able to create something beautiful. It may not be what you planned but it can be wonderful.

Tracy Lyn Cutler