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.]