The future stretched out before us in an endless red carpet. I was a junior in high school, deeply immersed in the college admissions process. Day and night, my friends spoke of nothing except SAT scores, advanced placement exams, and whether the colleges that we had chosen would choose us as well.

Just two blocks away from my high school, my grandmother lay in her hospital bed, her pain so fierce that no amount of morphine could take it away. The cancer had moved into her bones. She was dying.

I would journey from a world defined by the future to a world that had no futureThose two blocks felt like the longest in the world. After school, I would journey alone from a world defined by the future to a world that had no future. What would I say to Grandma? How could I tell her that I was making plans for later, for what I would be doing once she was no longer here? Better to sit silently than speak of the future we wouldn't share.

On the way to the hospital, there was a flower shop. I entered one day, determined to find something that would bring her joy. I needed a gift that could be trusted. That's how I chose the African violet. Not only because it was beautiful, but because it would last. Surely even the death of a flower, at that point, was too much to witness.

In the hospital, I would sit with Grandma and hold her hand. When pain spasms wracked her body, I would count slowly, using my voice as an anchor to steady her until it subsided. Even the doctors and nurses could do little more for her. After a while, she moved to a hospice. There was talk of pain management, rather than treatment.

The violet accompanied her until the end. When she died, her older sister - my great-aunt - removed it from her room in the hospice, and brought it home. Grandma was gone. I forgot about the violet.

Grandma's death changed me. I was no longer star-struck by ivy coated universities, and the glittering promise of initials after my name. I wanted meaning, not success. I wanted to know what the point was in a life that contained such suffering.

I went away to college, and then took a year off to study in Israel. That year led to another year, then two years, then a shocking declaration that I had decided to permanently move to Israel, and would not be returning home.

Yet my great-aunt kept the violet and tended it. I would write her letters about my life in Israel, while in a corner of her house, the violet continued to bloom. The violet's companionship was reliable; my letters infrequent.

It was a surprise after so many years to find the violet again on a visit to my great-aunt's home. It reminded her of Grandma, she told me. She kept it, until she could no longer care for it herself, when she, too, had to be tended. The violet had kept its promise.

It was her death that touched me, that changed the trajectory of my life My grandmother is gone. My great-aunt is gone. All that remains is this story. I think about myself at sixteen, yearning to touch infinity, buying time in the form of a plant, which enclosed my grandmother's sister in its sweet shelter. Later, I am told what I hadn't known, that my grandmother loved these violets, and I had chosen well.

Powerless to rescue my grandmother from death's grasp, it was her death that touched me instead, that changed the trajectory of my life from the pursuit of success to the pursuit of meaning.

Many years later, I share this story with my husband's grandmother. We have grown close, far closer than expectations would predict. She is moved by the story. She, too, loves violets. So, once again, I go to the flower shop to purchase a violet. She plants it in her garden where it blooms at unexpected times, perhaps when I am thinking about her, perhaps when she is counting her many losses.

Yet it is not the violet that holds such power to touch the infinite. It is within us, our choice to pluck a flower from its obscurity, to infuse it with the weighty fragrance of our love. In the end, it is our yearning to reach beyond the boundaries which infuses the violet with meaning.