When I was 13 or 14 years old, I got a summer job working at Heather Oak Rhododendrons. A big part of working at that nursery was to pot Rhododendron starts by the hundreds - they would be sold off in the following years.
One day, I came across a small plant that was nothing more than a 3 inch stick with two tiny roots on one end, and a single leaf on the other. Mike, the owner of the nursery, told me to toss that one aside, that it wasn't worth anything, and would probably just die anyway.
I asked him if I could have it.
When I got home that evening, I showed my mother this sad, one-leaf stick, and asked her if she could help it. She took it, put it in some potting soil, made sure to water it, and nurtured it along until it was strong enough to sustain itself. Then, she planted it in our yard, where it continued to grow, and flourish.
That was some 23 years ago, and that Rhododendron is now a great-big beautiful plant that my mother spoke of fondly.
When she got married a few years ago, she decided to dig it up and replant it at her new home. Some people questioned her for the efforts she was putting forth for a single plant, and suggested it would be so much easier just to get a new one to plant. She explained that this particular Rhododendron wasn't just a Rhododendron, that it was "a little boy's faith in his mother to make it better".
And she did make it better. She always knew how to make things better. She knew the right words to say to comfort us in troubled times. She knew what to do in the challenges we faced. And she knew how to be a good role-model for us, and great follower of Christ.
While she saw that Rhododendron as "a little boy's faith in his mother", for my part, I see it as a symbol for how she lived her life, and how she related to other people.
She had deep compassion for the people who she met who were sick in health, or sick in spirit. Once she befriended you, you were hers. She would do whatever it took to help those that she loved. Sometimes, it was a simple phone call. Sometimes, it was a weekend trip to the coast. Sometimes, it was lying next to the person to offer comfort and care in their final hours before passing from this Earth. Always with a smile, encouraging words, and a tender heart.
She wasn't perfect, and there were times when she had fall-outs with some of her friends, but she never tossed a friendship aside because it was no longer worth anything, and would probably die anyway. Even at times when people said or did something to her that was mean, or bitter, she was generous with her forgiveness. She often told us that we don't know what else is going on in that other person's life - that they may be going through something very difficult, and they don't really mean that thing that they said or did. Some of you in this room know first-hand of her tenacity to pursue and mend a relationship. Aren't we glad that she did?
Linda's greatest joy and concern was always for us - her family and friends. She cared for us, encouraged us, repaired us, uplifted us, listed to us, loved us.
Linda loved spending time in her flower gardens. She delighted in the time and effort spent pruning her rose bushes, though sometimes she got pricked, planting bulbs, pulling weeds, watering, nourishing and tending each plant with great love and care. Her family and friends are a living testament to the wonderful gardener she was.