Every time I see a sunflower, I smile. It reaches deep into my soul, and takes me back to a time where I was filled with despair, heartache, and anguish over the death of my beloved Great-Aunt Zippy, but how faithful is my God who hears and heals the brokenhearted! What does this have to do with a sunflower? With Hope arising? With a miracle?
I’ll tell you. Growing up the oldest of three, and the only girl, and as a military child was difficult for me. My younger brothers had each other as playmates regardless of where we moved to, but I never seemed to fit in. My Aunt Zippy, who lived in Charles City Iowa, had a soul connection with me. Though I didn’t get to see her often, the times we did get to visit were so instrumental and profound, the memories of our visits boosted me. She always had a way of making me feel special, even long-distanced. She seemed to read my mind, and know when I was struggling. Sometimes, I’d get a letter in the mail from her, in her curly old-fashioned handwriting; always ending with “Aunt Zippy loves you!” Other times, I’d get a phone call from her, with her saying “Aunt Zippy just needed to hear your voice dear. Is every thing OK?” And all of my troubles would spill out into her listening ear.
Well, the day came when she passed away. When my mother called me, and said she had to tell me something that was going to upset me, suddenly in my heart, I knew. “Is it Aunt Zippy?” I asked. And mom confirmed. A part of my heart stopped beating at that moment, and I fell into a depressed, numb shock. NOOOOOOOOOO! I screamed silently. It couldn’t be true! I wasn’t ready for her to die!
We weren’t sure how we were going to afford driving to Iowa for her funeral. Our available cash was non-existent. At the time, I was selling Longaberger Baskets, and had a large amount of the collector baskets, and a few avid customers who loved deals. I decided to bundle a bunch together and offer a grouping too irresistible to refuse, and was soon able to exchange a truck load of baskets for the cash we needed, and we were on our way, with our 3 children in tow.
We were asked to sing at her funeral. Our son plays the guitar and sings, along with the rest of us. We decided we would sing “I Can Only Imagine”. I couldn’t imagine being able to sing, when I wasn’t able to talk without crying, and breathing was difficult. I kept praying for the Lord to give me strength.
Aunt Zippy’s favorite flower was the Sunflower. Due to a drought in the area, it was difficult finding sunflowers for her funeral. Her son, my cousin Paul, was able to get a few ordered for her casket. Seeing her like that was the hardest sight I ever witnessed. I missed her so much! I was consumed with the deepest anguish, and struggled to find peace.
You see, only a few weeks before her fiftieth wedding anniversary, her husband, my Uncle Red, passed away following complications with heart surgery. She was so angry at God! She felt cheated. When I would try to talk with her about it, she’d clamp up, and I sensed the bitterness that was settling in, mixed with her heartache. I knew she was raised in a church, and knew she was a member of the local church in fact; but didn’t know for sure she’d given her heart to Jesus, and received Him as her personal Lord and Savior. The uncertainty of her eternal rest was eating away at me, and was the source of my agony!
Desperate to know, I cried out to God. On our return trip home, still numb with grief, still in shock, still searching within, I asked God “Father God, You know where she is. You know how much she means to me, and how much I am hurting. I know all things are possible with You. I ask that You show me a sign dear Lord, that she is with you in Heaven. I need a miracle dear Lord. Please let it be, In Jesus Name, amen.”
My head against the window, looking out at the roadside, tears streaming down my face, Iowa corn fields passing by us as we traveled, all of a sudden, I see the most amazing sight! There on the right side of the road growing wild were several beautiful, tall sunflowers! I jumped up, and exclaimed to my family “Look! Did you see that? There were 2 or 3 large sunflowers right there! I know God placed them there as a sign for me that Aunt Zippy is alive in heaven with Him!” My husband laughed and teased me, “Mommy must have had a dream kids” he said. They laughed a bit too, while I insisted I wasn’t dreaming, and that I knew what I saw. I even suggested my husband turn around and go back to see it himself, but he didn’t.
I guess I must have dozed off, but shortly after I was awakened by my children hollering “Mommy! Look! Look! Look out the window! Look at all of the sunflowers mommy!” I looked and couldn’t BELIEVE what my eyes were seeing! The entire roadside for about a mile or so was FULL OF SUNFLOWERS! Amazing! I couldn’t believe it! They were soooo beautiful! God is so good! He answered my prayer, and tears were flowing, as I was knowing…my aunt Zippy was in heaven! God is faithful!
I called my cousin Paul and shared with him. I just wanted others to have the peace that was flooding my heart in knowing she was with God! He seemed subdued, and a little skeptical, but was happy for me. I can’t describe to you the depth of my joy! I was thrilled my children and husband witnessed it too. WOW GOD! And just like God, when we finally pulled into our driveway of our Virginia home, after 2 days of driving, guess what was there at our front door, welcoming us? Yep. You guessed it. The biggest, largest sunflower bloom you ever saw, growing in our flower garden next to our front steps, with its petals wide open. I’ve never planted sunflowers there before. It wasn’t growing when we left. It was heaven-sent, with arms wide open, welcoming us home. Our sunflower miracle!