Is it strange to mourn a plant?
Benji had been a mere babe when we brought him to our California home back in the ‘80s, a vibrant lush green Ficus, about 2 feet high and 1 foot wide. Then, for 16 years he savored his spot in the sunny corner of our dining room.
Until suddenly, we needed to move to the other coast, and Benji wasn’t invited. No moving company would guarantee the safety of a now almost 5 foot by 5 foot splendid plant.
“I won’t go without Benji,” I declared.
So we packed him in a wardrobe box for the move, and as we unfurled the plant two weeks later in the sunny spot made just for him in our new, New England home, I heard him sigh, long and happy.
He breathed in the oxygen and gave it out, growing in his big corner. The piano sat on one end, solid and staid, while Benji stretched and grew on his end, filling up the large ‘Great Room’ as the Yankees call it.
When guests walked into the spacious room with high ceilings, tall windows, a masculine brick fireplace highlighted by built-in bookcases, all they noticed at first was Benji. Not the wood floors or Oriental rug or ivory couches or glass-topped tables.
For 10 more years Benji thrived, and at 6 foot tall, he owned the room like a king on his throne.
Until it was time for us to move again, and this time, the law dictated that no plant could be transported to the west coast.
No friends or relatives or even strangers would take Benji – he was too big. But the new residents of our New England home agreed to keep him.
I left instructions: water once a week, not too much and not too little. Let him soak in the light. Talk to him. Enjoy him.
Half a year later, I returned to our past, to the house in New England, and to Benji. I peeked into the Great Room, and saw the wood floors and the bookcases and the fireplace, but no Benji.
Ah, there he was, just a ghost of himself, down to 4 feet by 2, wispy, yellow.
And I cried for our beloved plant,
Who no longer owned the room.
Like a child not well loved, or a pet kept outdoors, or a spouse ignored, Benji gave up. I felt silly, feeling so sad about this dying plant, but really…
[Ficus benjamina, commonly known as the Weeping Fig, Benjamin’s Fig, or the Ficus Tree and often sold in stores as just a “Ficus”, is a species of fig tree, native to south and southeast Asia and Australia.]
18 thoughts on “A Plant Well Loved”
Oh my – I am sooo upset – all the years I have known and chatted and loved
Benji – we will miss him Mom
I know, Benji kind of surrounded the place, like a big hug, didn’t he?
I found this post oddly moving.
I never considered plants to be members of the family (probably because I have inadvertently killed so many of them). I never considered naming one, either.
But Benji was a fine specimen. You gave him a lot of love. So I do get it.
You shouldn’t feel weird about being sad.
I wish I didn’t feel so badly about his demise, but he gave us oxygen, beauty, grace (and love, in his own way) for 26 years.
Just talk a little bit to your plants – I bet more of them will survive. :+)
I know you must have been heartbroken when you saw what became of something you nurtured for so long. Benji wasn’t a mere plant, he was a mile marker for times and events in your life. With your departure without him and then to return to find him neglected, you must feel some sort of responsibility. But keep in mind, that while under your care and love, the plant lived longer than any houseplant had a right to. Take it from someone who has killed more plants than you could shake a dead stick at, it’s not that hard to do. 🙂
I try to keep them alive, but if there was a agency for plantal neglect, I would be turned in to it. I try, I just forget – hey, I’m lucky my cats get breakfast and fresh water! Plus, I apparently have a really brown thumb!
Thanks for sharing.
Ohhh, you’re funny. “Agency for plantal neglect.” I like that. Well, thanks for making me feel better. And you’re absolutely right, Benji was like ‘family’ because he was there for all the family milestones. Thanks so much for reading and commenting!
I loved this peice and feel as you do about plants. A room is not complete to me without a plant. I’ve had beloved plants, too. They are living beings to me and give me so much. I mourn Benji with you
You DO understand. Yes, plants are living beings, and they add so much to our lives! Thank you for reading.
I understand, Pam. I have one split-leaf philo that’s had 9 lives. Poor green baby has been through a lot since her birth sometime in the ’70s. (We inherited her when we bought the house.) Although Lil knows all my secrets, I trust her completely. I’ve never know her to gossip. She mostly just listens and empathizes – one woman to another.
Keeping Spirits Alive,
Oh, you must introduce me to Lil next time I visit. Hmmm, maybe if I whisper to her, she’ll tell me some of your secrets. :+)
How sad that Benji is only a ghost of his former glory. You have my sympathy. 😦
Thank you! I do know that plants have ‘ghost lives,’ in a sense. Have you ever seen that science show that illustrates, using a photosensitive camera (it shows the ‘aura’ around each leaf and branch), when one leaf dies, the leaf closest to it gets a larger aura. Fascinating!
I think Benji loved you. That’s why he prospered. You had a heart-to-heart relationship. You have a big heart that makes room for precious plants.
Thanks Kathy. I hope to keep on growing (my heart AND my precious plants)…
Plants become a part of our lives when they thrive for that long. It’s unfortunate the new owners don’t take as good care of him. Then again maybe he misses you?
Oh, I think we miss each other equally. But fortunately, I haven’t yellowed and lost my leaves. Thanks for reading!
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