It's not every day someone sends you blessed, healing, miracle rose petals.
But that's exactly what came in the mail Monday courtesy of readers Carol and Bill Mays.
At first, I wondered if they knew something I didn't. Now that I think of it, I've been feeling a little strange. And I've got this cough. And a rash.
No, it was nothing like that.
Turns out they had come across a bag of miracle roses while cleaning out the house of an elderly friend who died recently. She had gotten them from the west-side shrine to "Little Saint Rose." Sadly, instead of miraculous, the roses may turn out to be a curse that ends in the destruction of the house where Little Saint Rose lived and believed she met Jesus Christ.
The Mays wanted me to have them because they read my columns on Rose Arveson Simmons, or "Little Saint Rose" as she came to be known after her death in 1963 at age 65.
"I just couldn't throw them away," Carol Mays told me.
So she mailed me the dried rose petals, with a thorny stem, as she found them in a small plastic bag with a typed note explaining the roses may look dead but they may come back to life any moment.
"I read your columns about the miracle roses and I was picturing these fresh roses picked years ago," Carol said. "But they looked like a bunch of dried-up old roses."
Carol didn't put much faith in the brittle contents of the bag.
"I'm a little skeptical of those dried-up roses," she said. "But the Arveson sisters seemed to put a lot of stock in them."
Rose Arveson's legend was the creation of her daughters, Dorothy and Pauline, who tried to have her declared a saint after claiming roses they placed on her casket had wilted, died and been resurrected 10 days after her burial. And they cured people who touched them.
The resurrection of the roses prompted Dorothy and Pauline to build a shrine to their mother at the family home at 3540 W. Pikes Peak Ave. They created a chapel inside, where Christ supposedly visited Rose in 1936, and an outdoor shrine and statue garden.
Then they spread the word, including full-page stories in national tabloid newspapers, and welcomed pilgrims from around the world with an offer of free blessed, healing, miracle roses like the ones they laid on Rose's casket.
Over the years, they shipped thousands of roses, free, to anyone who asked. Neighbors recall seeing boxes of roses come and go from the little house each day for decades. The roses were subsidized by Dorothy's accounting business.
As the sisters aged, their efforts to promote their mother and the shrine faded. Weeds grew and the statues decayed as a stranger moved in with the sisters.
Over the years, authorities were called to check the welfare of the women. But police were never allowed inside. Finally, in January, a horrid odor coming from the house led authorities to enter the place. They were shocked at the scene inside, describing a dozen dead animals and human waste everywhere.
They also found 69-year-old William E. Schwartz, who appeared to be suffering a leg infection and had to be carried out.
The house was shuttered, condemned as a health hazard and unfit for human habitation.
In addition, they determined Pauline Arveson had died in April 2008 at age 82 and Dorothy had died in March 2011 at age 81. Schwartz had lived there alone since their deaths.
Schwartz was charged with misdemeanor cruelty to animals related to the carcasses found inside. He pleaded guilty in May and was given two years' probation and ordered not to have pets.
Neighbors have been wondering what happens next with the house. So I called Tom Wasinger, acting code enforcement administrator, to learn its status.
After months of trying to get Schwartz to take responsibility for cutting weeds and doing other cleanup at the site, Wasinger hired a crew Oct. 15 to do the work. He is dealing with Schwartz because he claims ownership of the property.
"We went out and cut weeds, boarded up a door and did other abatement," Wasinger said.
But the house remains condemned, and it could become the first property to feel the full force of the city's blight ordinance.
"I'd like to make it a test case," Wasinger said. "I'm planning on being more assertive on dilapidated buildings. They don't have to be beautiful. But owners must mitigate issues affecting surrounding property owners."
The next step is to bill the property for the cleanup. Failure to pay will result in a lien. Eventually, if Schwartz continues to be uncooperative, Wasinger said, the code enforcement team will ask the City Council to seek an injunction and ask a judge to appoint a receiver for the property.
The process could lead to demolition of the property if it can't be salvaged.
"The last thing I want to do is take someone's property," Wasinger said. "But we need to get resolution with these properties that are bringing down the neighborhoods."
That will be good news to neighbors who still report smelling hideous odors emanating from the Arveson house. And to think for decades it was scented by too many roses to count.
Anyway, now that I have some miracle roses, I'm wondering if they might help me.
I'm hoping they cure baldness.
Read my blog updates at blogs.gazette.com/sidestreets.