The Gift I Never Gave

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“The Gift I Never Gave,” Ensign, June 1999, 57–58

The Gift I Never Gave

When I began investigating the Church, I attended a branch where Janet was Relief Society president, and I came to love this gentle lady with the friendly smile. As the year went on, I witnessed many acts of kindness that were second nature to her. She always seemed to know exactly who needed a hug or a word of encouragement; often I was that person. Janet celebrated my spiritual growth as I gained a testimony of the gospel and was finally baptized. How she rejoiced with me!

Often I wished I had something to give her to show how much her friendship meant to me. Since I was going through some financial problems, however, I was unable to buy her a gift. Instead, I asked Heavenly Father to help me think of something nice I could do for her.

Finally, an answer to my prayer came on Mother’s Day. During sacrament meeting, each mother was given a lovely little scarlet flower. On my way home, I realized that Janet hadn’t attended the meetings that day. Since she hadn’t been there to receive a flower, I decided to give her mine the next Sunday.

All week I tended the flower with love and care. I could hardly wait for Sunday to arrive so I could surprise my sister with the little scarlet beauty. But on Sunday Janet was still home sick. Each week for a month, during her illness, I took the gift to church and then brought it back home and placed it next to my poinsettia on the windowsill over the kitchen sink.

Although Janet lived only 15 minutes away, I couldn’t seem to get organized enough to find the time to visit her and take the plant. Each day I prayed for her recovery, but each day I forgot to save time to send her a note or call on the telephone to say, “I’m thinking of you.”

As the weeks slipped away, I also failed to notice that Janet’s flower was slowly wilting for want of proper attention. It needed to be planted outside so it would have room to grow. Like people who are not allowed growing room, little by little the plant began to die. First, the bright scarlet blossoms fell off one by one. Then the leaves began to curl and turn brown.

By the time Janet returned to church, the little plant was shriveled up and flowerless. Even then, I probably could have saved it—or, rather, Janet could have, by planting it lovingly in her yard, but by then I was too ashamed to let her see it. Because of my procrastination, the beautiful flower never got to grow to its full potential, and Janet never got to know how much I was thinking about her while she was sick.

Today my guests must wonder why I keep a dead flower on my windowsill. That flower reminds me that sometimes our best intentions wither for lack of follow-through. Each morning when I look at it, I am reminded to put my good intentions into action.

Love is, after all, not just a nice warm feeling but a series of actions for the welfare of another. By dying, Janet’s flower may have provided me with one of the most important truths about living I’ve ever learned.