When my Grandfather died, I wanted his flower arrangement to have hibiscus in it. I wanted to bring him Hawaii, because he never went.

During the last year of my Grandfather’s life, he was in a nursing home. He was living with my parents, and while they were at work one day, he fell down the front steps, landed squarely on his back, and lay staring into the hot Georgia sun for hours. He collected a fierce sunburn because no one was home to help him back to his feet.

My parents found him in a nursing home a week later. He settled in easy enough and became instantly popular with the ladies. He was wooed with a constant stream of dingy stuffed bears and frayed dogs that the women won on Bingo nights. He never did have to fill out his Bingo card. There was always a giddy, grinning, white-haired woman waiting to do it for him.

“What does he need?” I asked my Dad. “What can I bring him?”

“I always ask him what he needs,” my Dad says, “and he always says, ‘A ticket to Hawaii.’”

“That’s odd. Didn’t he and Granny go to Hawaii a long time ago?”

“Your Granny did, but he didn’t. He didn’t want to fly. He was scared. And he didn’t want to take time off work either.”

My Grandfather was asking for something no one could give him – a chance to go back to the past and do it differently. A chance to share a memory with his wife. A chance to explore and enjoy this world he was preparing to leave.

With his one “need,” my Grandfather showed me what’s important – making time for those you love, seeing this living world, and doing it all while you CAN. NOW.

He died in October, and the florist couldn’t find hibiscus anywhere in Georgia. It broke my heart all over again. I know enough now to realize that while I was worried about the flowers on his coffin, he was probably holding hands with my Grandmother in Hawaii and standing in a field of wild hibiscus.

Does hibiscus grow in fields? Well, maybe where he is.