I love growing antique roses. Every time I tend mine or bring bouquets in to grace our kitchen table, I am reminded of the dear friend who first introduced me to “old roses.” I had never been much inspired to grow roses, appreciating the beauty of long stemmed hybrids, but avoiding their need for pampering. Marcia told me about robust roses that are so hardy they grow on old tumbled down homesites and along fences. Once I realized that each one had its own unique story and fragrance, I was hooked. I pored over catalogs, and planted Sombreuil, Mutabulis, Maggie, and Crepescule. My rose friends’ stories blend now with my friend Marcia’s story, and that of her husband, Bob.
Bob was crazy about Marcia. Marcia adored Bob. Her nickname was Moose, and she fancied cats and roses. The cats were a pair of vocal chocolate point Siamese named Mikhail and Nikita and were Bob and Marcia’s babies, but the roses were their passion.
Marcia had picked out her wedding dress and envisioned a wedding long before she found Bob when she was in her mid-thirties. During their pre-marital counseling sessions with Marcia’s pastor, Bob was asked what one thing he would change about her if he could. He said he would give her a healthy heart since she was born with a hole in her heart and developed Eisenmenger’s syndrome which meant her heart and lungs were unable to provide her with enough oxygen. That didn’t keep her from her photography business but it made keeping up with physical activity hard for her. It also didn’t keep her from loving Bob and planning a life with him.
After Bob heard Marcia say she always wanted a rose garden, he bought 80 acres of fertile South Texas Gulf Coast land to plant neither rice nor cotton, but thousands of rose bushes. They drew up plans, pored over catalogs, and began choosing roses. When the first 2000 rose plants arrived, Marcia directed the planting from her hospital bed. A group of us who called her friend went out to plant the roses with Bob’s help.
Two pacemakers later, she was placed on a heart transplant list. Finally, Bob and Marcia and the cats moved to Nashville, TN to be near Vanderbilt University Hospital while she waited what they thought would bea few months to receive a heart and lungs. I went out to their rose farm a few times to help pot cuttings as their plans to open a shop and nursery were postponed. Many of their family and friends did what they could to help maintain the plantings. Time dragged on over 2 years, with Marcia in and out of the hospital as her need became greater. Because the need for organs so far outweighs donors, Marcia once said “There’s just no ordering from the Land’s End catalogue.” That may have been a quip, but certainly not a joke. In order to increase awareness for organ donation, she allowed a reporter and photographer to follow her for 4 ½ months in the hospital, a story later published in the Nashville newspaper. In the series of articles, Marcia and Bob's love for each other and their deep faith dominated the story of their courage.
Bob worked from her hospital room and their apartment on his computer and was her chief encourager. One day he filled every pitcher, Styrofoam cup, and container he could find in her hospital room with Texas roses which he had flown to Tennessee. He brought Mikhail and Nikita for visits because she missed them so much. Her Dr. OK'd this when he found out how much it helped her.
The day came for Marcia's rare heart and double lung transplants in April 1999. Recovering, she returned to Texas with pink cheeks, a grin, and enough air to play her flute as well as honor a promise to a friend to be in her June wedding. In her absence, friends and family had planted, rooted, and tended endless cuttings and rose beds. Bob built her a house. Early on they had planned a gift shop, tea room, and wedding chapel for their antique rose nursery and display gardens named The Vintage Rosery. Together, now they worked side by side, nurturing roses, increasing public awareness of organ donation and organic gardening, and kept all the commitments involved in maintaining Marcia's health. Together, they prayed and played, keeping the dreams alive, celebrating the opening of their gardens only 2 years after her transplants. For the next 5 they grew their garden and introduced customers to roses.
On a brilliant fall day, a line of cars miles long drove through the arches at the Vintage Rosery past masses of climbing yellow Lady Banks and fragrant Madame Alfred Carriere drifts, along the beds of multicolored Mutabulis, Maggie and pink Duchesse de Brabant next to rows of Souvenir de La Malmaison. They passed by the stream with its covered bridge and saw a tiny chapel. As people got out of their cars, they walked by a charming yellow house with a kitchen garden and fragrant herbs lining paths. By the lakeside, they gathered to honor Marcia and celebrate her life.