"Why do flowers wilt?" asked the small boy as his tiny fingers caressed the bent stem of a rose. Its once crimson petals were faded pink, their tips black and torn. Even the thorns were weak and moving his hand over them no longer drew blood. He tucked his index finger beneath the downcast face of the flower and slowly lifted it back up to the light. Weak and shy, the flower's head quickly fell again, this time loosening a rose petal, casting it to the ground.
"Because they age." answered his mother with a low sigh as her tired eyes moved from her child to the stooped rose. It had once been so beautiful. She saw herself in the flower. "They cannot stay young and strong forever."
"Why do they have to become weaker when they get older?" wondered the child as he glanced to the window. "The trees just keep getting taller when they age, I've never seen one wilt!"
The mother frowned as she looked to the trees outside. They towered over the house, and grew mightier and more beautiful with every passing year, while she grew old and wrinkled, while her hair thinned and her eyes weakened. She squinted at nature's giants and moaned. "Because the trees are born strong."
"The roses thorns made me bleed when we first got it!" stammered the child stubbornly, pouting over the unfairness. He raised a finger to his mother and she could still see the small cut that grinned whenever the boy moved his hand. "It was strong, I couldn't even hold it!" He withdrew his hand and looked over the mark with a scowl upon his face.
"Age is stronger than any thorn," whispered his mother, staring at the dull spikes that once defended the rose from any harm. She ran her own finger up and down the stem, and felt the thorns bend submissively before her touch. "Age is stronger than any tree as well." She looked back to the looming trees that watched over their house, taunting them with their height and strength. "They will fall one day."
The boy looked to the window, then back to his mother. Confusion masked his face and twisted his mouth. "When?"
"One day," repeated the woman, smiling to her son. "They grow weaker as they grow taller, they will someday rot and come plummeting to Earth with a mighty crash!" She curled one hand into a fist and slammed it down onto her palm. She gave the child a grin, "and you know what, no one will care."
"Our house will care if it falls on us." mumbled the boy, inspecting the ceiling with narrowed eyes. "It'll care a lot!"
The mother chuckled, "yes, but no one else will. Age will take me one day, but I know that I have a strong son to carry on my name..."
The child flexed, smirking at his mother. She chuckled as she felt his thin arm. "I'm super strong!" boasted her son, flexing his skin and bones.
"Yes, super strong." agreed his mother happily as she drew her hand back and sighed. "The trees rise and fall without ever knowing what it means to truly live and to truly die." Her smile faded into oblivion and her mouth sagged into a weak frown. "Age will take us all, and we all know that. Our age does not make us weak, our past does not make us weak, and our future does not make us weak. I'm hanging on, when I know I'm aging and impermanent..that is what makes me strong. That's why I'll always be stronger than a tree. Because I know and fear, yet I do not let it take over my life." The smile returned, banishing the frown and raising the corners of her mouth up in victory. "That's why you're stronger than any tree as well. "
"Even if I never grow as tall as one?"
"Even if you never grow as tall as one." His mother chuckled and lifted the rose's wilting head once more, and forced it to look into the sun. "And this guy is strong too!" exclaimed his mother in a deep voice. "Very, very strong! He just needs sunlight and more water!"
Her son giggled and placed his finger beside his mother's. He gasped and quickly pulled back his hand. The boy held up a single finger to reveal a small red dot that grew slowly into a crimson ball upon the tip of his finger. "It..."
"It's fighting." said the mother.
"It's strong!" shouted the boy loudly with a wide grin playing across his lips. He wiped the blood onto his shirt and brushed at the pink petals. They no longer fell, but stood firm before his touch. "I think pink is prettier than red too." said the child, admiring the faded petals.
"Me too." agreed his mother, smirking. "Age is something to be admired as well." She brought her finger back from the rose, and her smile widened when the flower did not wilt like before, but continued to stand tall without her support, facing the sun. She turned to the sun's bright rays only to quickly look away. She chuckled, "perhaps I will someday be as strong as you." whispered the mother graciously.