I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

Ambleside, England

“I beg your pardon
I never promised you a rose garden
Along with the sunshine
There’s gotta be a little rain sometime . . .”

Written by Joe South, singer Lynn Anderson


I was still in high school in the early 1970s when I was sent to help out a great-uncle who was dying of cancer.   It was a very sad time  –  his young son had already lost his mother, who had been killed in a car accident.   I have vivid memories of hearing Lynn Anderson’s song being played over and over in the boy’s room, and it’s remained with me ever since, a recognition that, as much as we’d like to,  we can’t  protect those we dearly love from life’s losses and suffering.

There’s been both sunshine and rain, and I have been blessed with rose gardens that themselves have brought both beauty and thorns.  Roses are a picture of love.  They are joy to see, their scent luxuriant, their petals soft, mysterious in their depths.  In our travels, we saw roses sheltered against the  stone fences of English gardens in the Lake District.  When I worked at McMaster University many years ago, it was a heart’s delight when early summer brought the bright roses that would reach up along a sunny wall of an old edifice.

McMaster University, 1968 Orientation Video Screenshot

Roses have thorns, and love has its heartbreak.  Many lessons have had to be learned in loving and letting be, many tears shed in saying good-bye.  It’s part of being human – learning to love is lifelong, through sunshine and rain.

“Love is a rose
But you better not pick it 
Only grows when it’s on the vine
Handful of thorns, and you’ll know you’ve missed it
Lose a love when you say the word ‘mine’.”
Written by Neil Young, singer Linda Ronstadt