I thought about my friend, Phillip, today when I was at the market. I walked past a row of succulents for sale and I saw an echeveria, the same kind Phillip got me for my 30th birthday.
“I remember you said you don’t have a green thumb, so this is the perfect plant for you,” Phillip said as he gave me the gift. “Seriously, you could remove it from the dirt and set it on the sidewalk for two weeks and you still wouldn’t kill it. And isn’t it beautiful? I love the way the water beads on the plant and it has a hint of purple to its color.”
That succulent was one of the most thoughtful gifts I’ve received. I’d only known Phillip for about three months, but he gleaned enough information from out conversations to hand pick a gift that he knew I would love. I treasured that plant. I took time to find the perfect pot for it in Mexico, and it was the perfect addition to my home.
Phillip and I sat next to each other at work. We passed the days gazing out the panoramic windows of our downtown office and pointing out various landmarks to one another. We had spirited conversations about literature, music, politics, food, and urban planning. He spent several days a week teaching urban gardening to kids, and I spent my time off volunteering with the homeless population of Skid Row. We would share stories with each other about the work we did giving back to our community. On several occasions, we were called to the manager’s office for verbal warnings about talking to each other too much. We’d laugh it off, try to be quiet for a while, and pick up the conversation again later.
I will never forget the moment when I received the phone call from a co-worker who told me that Phillip was struck by a car while riding his bike and he didn’t make it. I later learned he was on a date when it happened. One moment she saw him riding beside her and smiling, and the next moment he was thrown into the air by a speeding car. Just like that, Phillip’s young and promising life was snatched from us. Despite five years between this moment and that tragic day, June 15th always stings. I still miss him terribly.
A few weeks after Phillip’s death, the succulent he gave me also died. It wasn’t just a plant to me; that echeveria was a part of him. He lived on in my life through it. I cried and mourned Phillip all over again. I was angry at myself for over-watering the plant and I became angry at the irresponsible driver again who took such a wonderful person from this world.
I decided to buy that succulent I saw today at the market. It’s beautiful. It has a hint of purple to it, and the water beads on it in such a lovely way. It may not be the original plant he gave me, but I’ll always think of Phillip when I see it.