My heart has been heavy these past few days with the passing of two dear friends, one on each coast. A loss in the East… 22 years ago I was introduced to a man who had an amazing talent for beauty in the plant world. If your home was tired and in need of a colorful pick-me-up, you would head over to Campbell’s Greenhouse Nursery for some of the prettiest, greenest plants. Orchids have always been my favorite, and Jesse Campbell had a way of creating extraordinary beauty with his orchids. I thought I might break the bank with my first purchase, but I came home with several beautiful orchid set ups - twigs twisting around the stems of the plant, bright green mood moss tucked neatly within the container, and every so often, Jesse would enhance the arrangement with maiden hair ferns or some other exotic filler. They would last in my home for several months until they quit budding, and then I would bring them back to the greenhouse so that Jesse could take care of them until they began to bud again. Whenever I brought them back they were either shriveled from lack of water or drowned because of too much water. He’d fuss at me and tell me that he would do his best to bring them back to life. Most of the time he was able to resurrect them, and I would get a call several months later to come and pick up my budding plant! >I will admit, I was not given the gift of a green thumb. I tend to kill anything that I try to grow. Jesse became such a friend over the years, always greeting me with the biggest hug every time I went into his beautiful sanctuary of greenery. He was gracious in always donating and helping me with any and all my events. He was a fighter who battled and triumphed over some health issues. The day I found out that Jesse was shot and killed, I was stunned, numb. I sat in Jesse’s celebration of life and was overwhelmed at the outpouring of love for this man. He had created a little slice of beauty and a little slice of heaven in his little piece of land on McDonald Ave. in Charlotte. The Charlotte community loved this man, and it showed in the celebration for who Jesse was. He will be missed deeply by so many. We will continue to pray for his family and the greenhouse family. A loss in the West… About 10 years ago, I took off to Hilton Head, SC to participate in a 4-day artist workshop with Ken Auster. I loved his work and was thrilled to be a part. His skills, techniques, setup - all thrilled me because I thought, “Wow. I can do this.” I am going to give a disclaimer: I am a messy painter. I do not clean my brushes and just leave a mess on my pallet, and when I heard that Ken did not clean his brushes and saw his messy pallet on wax paper, I thought again, “Wow! This is cool! You don’t have to be so conventional in the way you travel and paint.” A month later my family was traveling to California (his neck of the woods in Laguna Beach), and he said, “Come on. We’d love to take you to dinner. Come to the studio. Come to the house. We’d love to have you.” I was traveling with my four children and just said, “I don’t think you want us all descending upon you,” but we did, and we became great friends with Ken and his wife Paulette over dinner one night. We invited them both to Charlotte for a weeklong workshop, which we continued doing for several more years. I was in awe of Ken’s talent and his sense of humor, and I fell in love with Paulette and her passion for the Lord. Several years later Ken called me and asked if Clark and I wanted to go on a barge trip to France (hello? Duh!). He explained that he had been battling cancer and this was a bucket list item. We joined Ken and Paulette and two other couples and had a wonderful, memorable trip cruising down the Canal de Bourgogne. That was three years ago. What a blessing to have those memories (the laughs, the scenery, the discussions, the food, the wine!) with Ken and Paulette as we prayed through their rollercoaster of cancer, and unfortunately, the battle ended, and Ken is no longer with us. It’s natural to ask God, “why” in the face of losses, trials and tribulations. The God we serve is so big. He can handle your questions, your grief, your anger, but maybe, just maybe, He is so big and so intent on orchestrating a master plan using every piece of every situation, that we couldn’t handle His answers until He divinely appointments the time to reveal them to us. We don’t know (and may never know) why, but we move forward trusting and believing. Both Jesse and Ken will be missed! I know that they are amidst beauty in Heaven with all the colors. For the horticulturist and the painter, I am sure it is a sight to be seen. To the ones they leave behind… you are surrounded by our prayers and our love.