Sunday, May 8, 2016

Planting Happiness

Yesterday I worked in my garden, pulling weeds and trimming back plants that have become unruly from all the rain we've had. Everything has run wild with luxurious new growth, roses and clematis clambering up trellises and cone flowers springing up in every unoccupied inch of space. I like my garden to be a little shaggy around the edges, for my roses to be a little neglected looking, though in truth that look of neglect has taken years of careful cultivation. 

My Mom is never far from my mind at any given moment, but when I'm in the garden she is always more present to me. I think of her when I pull weeds, when I prune shrubs, when I tie back the leggy branches of my climbing roses. I think of her when I rake seeds into the dirt, succession sowing zinnias and cosmos and poppies so that I can squeeze as much color from the season as possible. I remember all the long days she and I spent together, mornings already humid and the earth exhaling the hot damp scent of summer as we pulled weeds and planted flowers side-by-side. 

I feel sometimes as though I'm planting happiness. On days when I miss her the most, when I wish I could call her and ask for advice, or when it just hits me that she's well and truly gone, I go out to the garden. I plant seeds. I tend my flowers. I pull weeds and imagine that every root that pops out of the soil is a bit of grief being pulled from my heart. I remember her in her garden in her blue skirt, the sun vivid on her as she handed me a shovel or a pair of pruning shears (the same ones I use in my garden now). The garden is my way of paying tribute to her. Of continuing to love her. It's a way to keep her close as I'm crouched in the dirt on humid mornings, smelling that summer earth as I plant my flowers and pull weeds, alone. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

One Year Later

One year ago today, my Mother died. After years of struggling against illness she slipped away in her sleep, finally leaving behind her pain and difficulty and creating a hole in the lives of those who loved her.

She fought a lot of battles in her lifetime. She beat cancer at 40. She dealt with an abusive and cheating husband. She worked to overcome whatever hardship life threw at her, despite the fact that it was often relentless. She always tried to see the best in her situation, even at the point where most would have given up. She rarely showed anything but bravery and strength to me and my sister when we were growing up. She wanted us to be equipped to handle whatever came our way, to know how to pull ourselves up and keep going even when things were hard.

She kept going until her body literally couldn't take any more. She had outlived her prognosis by years when her doctor finally told her that there was no avoiding things this time. By the very end she was ready, even if the rest of us were not.

She taught me a lot. I have applied her lessons to my life every day. I have also missed her beyond measure, wishing that things could have been different. A life where she wasn't ill. Where she lived to grow old, to see her daughters grow older, to see her grandson become an adult and to meet any future grandchildren she may have had. A life where she could have been without fear or worry. Where she shared it with someone better than my father. Someone who would have appreciated her for the unique and wonderful person she was.

I've never been the religious sort. I don't know what comes after death, but I hope that somehow, somewhere out there, she's walking the streets of London. That she's young again. That her body is healthy and strong. That she's laughing and free from worry and fear and sadness. I picture her like that sometimes, when I miss her, when it's hard to comprehend the rest of a life without her. I hope she's stopping at every place she loved in her youth, in a city she never was able to return to but that she always considered to be her home.

A few months after she died, I opened a book of poetry that had belonged to her and found that she'd printed off a particular poem on a note card and placed it in the book. I think she put it in there knowing that one of us would find it eventually after she was gone.

"Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there; I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning's hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there; I did not die"

-Mary Elizabeth Frye