Beyond Winter Skeletons

//Beyond Winter Skeletons

Beyond Winter Skeletons

Because I’ve been a grief dealer, I often get asked, “When does it get easier?”  It is a difficult question to answer for a couple of reasons.  Response to loss is unique to everyone.  And time is a trickster.  So often in life we wish for more – “One more day!” my dad once wrote – but when struggling through great grief time slams on the brakes.  Seconds creep like snails and a lonely day looms like an impossible eternity.

And here I am – sorry – talking about death in springtime.  The deciduous trees in the bush behind my home are furry with buds that in a week or so will burst into the various leaf colors and shapes that define them beyond winter skeletons.

But, death knows no season.  What I’m wondering, is this.  Can the magic of spring, what spring does to tree skeletons and buried bulbs and dormant grasses, help us in our grieving process?  Perhaps our tears are April showers that bring May soul flowers?  Spring doesn’t deny that death exists; it flourishes regardless.

In spring 2006, a year and a half beyond Hugh’s death, a year beyond his mother’s death, I contemplated these things as follows:


It’s cool, leather-jacket weather, first thing.  I deal with some of my loss of my mother-in-law, my dear sweet beautiful friend, mentor, savior at times, this morning while walking in her gardens in the sun.  Earlier in the week, another gardener, a hired one, weeded and put down that red pine much.

I picture her in her floppy hat, weeding, creating, all summer long, waving at the honking passersby.  I cry and cry and cry.  And as I cry I realize that we don’t cry for the dead – as in the poem “don’t weep for me, I did not die”.  We cry for ourselves.  It is selfishness that makes us cry.  I miss her, and I miss her baby boy, and the way we used to be.  I cry for the loss of their physical presence in my life.

I see her, with her grand smile, eyes twinkling as she conjures up in her mind’s eye the next great garden, the beauty of it, the wonder of it.  I study the pond, the origin of many summer projects, her grandchildren around her all working toward that common goal.  There’s a small bird bath, cement, with curly-cues, and it is her.  It is her style.

The daffodils are out, the tulips starting.  There’s hyacinth and also baby daffodils.  The green points of hosta.  The blood red points of the peony bush, with hot pink blooms, her lipstick color.  There’s one in my garden too, split from this one.  It blooms mid-June, Hugh’s birthday.         His mother planned her garden that there’d be no need to plant annuals, that there’d be color from early spring to late fall.  And she would kind of talk to the plants, had a rapport with the earth, being a farmer’s daughter.  “Here you go,” she’d say, when planting or transplanting.  “You guys duke it out.  May the fittest survive.”

As sad as I am, wandering the crushed stone walkways, maples dappling the light, I’m also happy.  Happy that evidence of her life exists in this garden legacy.

What choice do I have but to be ok?  If I’m not ok, it does me no good; it has no value.  So, I survive, make the most of each day, try to create something new, something decent.  My own legacy.  What will it be?



  1. Richard May 5, 2015 at 8:53 pm - Reply

    Beautifully written. It reminds me that our book on life story writing has a section dealing with loss. It is such a major part of so many lives. I like your term, ‘Grief Dealer.’

  2. Lorna May 10, 2015 at 7:43 pm - Reply

    What a beautiful woman that also inspired me and will never be forgotten, I’m sure her presence will always be with her beautiful gardens, and in the souls of all that loved her.xoxo

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