Where the Pink Camellias Bloom

By Lola Di Giulio De Maci

How can you forgive someone who doesn’t have a name or a face?

I had just returned from Los Angeles where I had undergone seven weeks of radiation therapy for breast cancer, and I definitely needed a pick-me-up – something just for me. These past weeks hadn’t been easy. I needed to rest.

Within a week, I discovered a statuary yard near my home. I parked my car at the entrance and walked through the wrought-iron gate. I was looking for that special something that would give me a lift. A terra-cotta pot? A statue? A birdbath?

And then I saw what I had been looking for. It was just sitting there waiting for me. My bench. Its gray, concrete base had fancy scrolls and curlicues, and its stone-studded seat sparkled in the midday sun. I sat on the bench. It had my name on it.

“How much do you want for this bench?” I asked the man-in-charge.

“One-hundred-and-five dollars.”

“I only have eighty-five dollars with me,” I said, fishing frantically for my wallet.


I lugged my prized possession home in the trunk of my car, and my husband placed it under the huge camphor tree in the backyard. The bench looked great there, but it slanted downward because of the tree’s billowing roots. It was like sitting on a slippery slope.

“It would look better between the tangerine tree and the plum tree anyway,” I surmised.

So my husband moved the bench to the shady area beneath the trees. But it just didn’t look right there. Not enough space.

The bench finally ended up in the front yard by the gray block wall. It rested on a grassy spot in the sun. Perfect.

I loved sitting on that bench, waiting for the letter carrier to deliver my mail or just watching the cars go by. The sun felt good on my back. Just what the doctor had ordered. And best of all, no one seemed to notice me. It was my sacred spot.

And then one night around nine o’clock, while I was watching TV I heard a loud, dull thud – like a huge boulder hitting a sheet of metal. It all happened so fast that I didn’t bother to get up and investigate what had just taken place outside my front door.

I didn’t notice that the bench was missing until the next day when I returned home from the grocery store. As soon as I turned into the driveway, something didn’t feel right. My eyes fell immediately on the empty space near the block wall. All that was left of my bench was the grassy spot on which it sat. Someone had pulled up in my circle drive, loaded my bench into his vehicle and drove off with it. All in the matter of seconds. A thief had taken something that belonged to me.

My husband was livid. “I’ll buy you another bench, and I’ll cement it to the ground. No one will be able to budge it. It’ll take a tow truck to haul it away.”

I didn’t want another one. I wanted that one. I had bought it with money I had saved. And, besides, it was my resting bench. A gift to myself.

I didn’t know what to think. I lay in bed that night, feeling hurt – and angry – and violated. Who would do such a thing? How could anyone take something that didn’t belong to them? I couldn’t fall asleep.

After several nights of leaning into prayer, I began thinking of all the good people in the world, people who do good things – like those who took care of me during my stay at the cancer center: People who held my hand when I was afraid; those who fluffed the pillow beneath my head to make me more comfortable; those who hugged me and encouraged me every step of the way…

All these years later, I still think of my bench at times. Not so much the bench itself anymore, but the lessons I have learned along the way. I have come to realize that all material things are transient and that having integrity is much more priceless. I have also come to realize that there can be beauty and power in the act of forgiveness.

Today a pink camellia bush blooms in the grassy spot in the sun where my bench once sat. Its graceful presence is a constant reminder that I must learn to forgive others – even those without a name or a face.

About this writer

  • Lola Di Giulio De MaciLola Di Giulio De Maci is a retired teacher whose stories have appeared in several editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul and the Los Angeles Times (Kid’s Reading Room). She enjoys handwritten notes/letters, her children, and new beginnings. She writes from her loft overlooking the San Bernardino Mountains. 

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3 Responses to “Where the Pink Camellias Bloom”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    your story was very touching, and I love the fact that a replacement wouldn’t do. The pink bush was the best thing to put in its place.

  2. Maureen McCabe says:

    A very beautifully written story about pain and wisdom and the journey from one to the other.

  3. Lola De Maci says:

    Thank you, Linda and Maureen, for taking the time to read and comment on my story. It meant a lot to me.

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