Sprouting beside a retaining wall, amid tufts of grass and a few bedraggled wildflowers, the lucky charm was a beacon of hope and encouragement.
It was the second four-leaf clover I’d picked in my lifetime, but the only one discovered on my own.
The first lucky clover arrived during the 1980s. I was a typical, somewhat petulant, junior-high school kid when I picked it – but one who was extraordinarily close to parents and grandparents.
It was a summer day when my grandfather instructed me to walk outside on the back porch and go to the edge of the retaining wall. There, he said, I would find something very special.
Although skeptical, I followed his commands. Making my way to the edge of the porch, I waited for something magical to appear. I was expecting a baby bunny or other such cute creature to pop out from the lawn.
It didn’t happen.
Instead I found myself staring at grass and weeds, waiting for the enchanted moment. Soon frustrated, I walked back inside. Before I could speak, my grandfather began shaking his head from side to side. He again told me to go back to the retaining wall and look closely.
I did as instructed and once again found myself staring at a mass of green. Suddenly I saw the forest despite the trees, figuratively speaking that is. Growing not a foot from where I stood was a giant four-leaf clover. It was nearly 2 inches in diameter, which had to mean it was a mighty harbinger of good luck.
I ran back inside excitedly, immediately blabbering about the giant clover. I come from a Scots-Irish family – one that doesn’t take luck, or superstition, lightly. In the kitchen, my parents and grandparents were going about their normal routine. They looked at one another and smiled at my jabbering.
“Take it,” my grandfather said. “It’s yours.”
I walked back outside and stared at the clover. Before plucking it from the earth, I marveled that my grandfather would give up all this luck for me.
The clover was immediately pressed in a special book. It didn’t make appearances frequently, but when it did they were important moments.
Cheerleader try-outs, prom, college entrance exams. I didn’t want to task the luck of my clover, but I couldn’t stop myself from running a finger over its dried leaves when important occasions arose. It always managed to work its magic.
After high school and college, the clover spent most of its time pressed in the special book. It came back out in 1990. The year started out great. In the latter part of 1989, I was hired as a reporter at the Daily Telegraph and, the next spring, I was promoted to Lifestyles editor. My parents and grandparents – all avid newspaper readers – were extremely proud.
Life seemed to be perfect, until June arrived. My grandfather began showing symptoms of an illness – of what, we weren’t sure. But we knew something wasn’t right. I recall sitting at his bedside, begging him to see a doctor. He finally relented, but none of us were expecting the diagnosis.
My grandfather, a longtime coal miner, had lung cancer, which had spread to his brain. He was given six months to live.
Mere weeks before my grandfather’s diagnosis, we planted a flower garden.
The year before I’d stared in awe at a neighbor’s dahlias. The giant flowers, true to their name, were the size of dinner plates. My grandfather, recalling my fascination with the flowers, bought me some tubers. We cleared out a section of land beside the house and planted the flowers. All the while, he spoke to me of my ancestors, and my great-great-grandmother’s love of dahlias.
As the dahlias grew in the summer of 1990, my grandfather’s health declined. The cancer, true to its evil name, was slowly robbing him of his health, and his self. As summer slowly turned into autumn, my grandfather was bedfast – no longer able to tend his prized vegetable and flower gardens. But at his bedside were giant, fresh-cut dahlias. I made sure of that.
My grandfather passed away six months to the time of his diagnosis. It was a cold, December day.
I pulled out the clover for comfort.
The four-leaf clover stayed tucked away for almost a decade after Grandpa’s death. It resurfaced in 2000, 2004 and 2006, the years of my father’s, grandmother’s and mother’s passing.
At some point, the clover morphed from a good-luck charm to an item of comfort. Pressing my thumb against the dried leaves, I immersed myself in faith instead of superstition. I knew my loved ones were suffering on this earth. In the afterlife, the better life, they would be at peace.
I was surprised to find the most recent four-leaf clover.
It was another giant, and growing not more than two feet from the one I’d picked so many decades ago. For a moment, I thought about letting it grow, then the Irish overcame me and I gently clipped its stem with my fingers.
This four-leaf clover is now pressed inside another special book.
I’m not sure if it will bring me luck, but I know it’s bringing comfort and peace
Samantha Perry is editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at email@example.com.