Losing My Mom–Lilacs

We’d communicate through lilacs. That’s what my mom and I decided on my last visit to see her.

We debated between them and hyacinths. But she was the expert.  She ran a successful plant and flower business for years– until her demons got the best of her. I trusted her instincts on this one. Plus, she reminded me, we had a big one in our yard growing up–and that my favorite color was lavender.

A week later I got the call. Her time was running out.  There were probably only hours left.

I went desperately seeking a lilac bush. It was early June and I knew the season had passed. But surely there must still be one in bloom.

I found one with two blooms hanging on. They were past their perfect purple color, on the brink of death. But I could still close my eyes and inhale. I called my mom. Her caregiver put the phone to her ear.

“Mom, I’m standing here in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. I’m smelling a lilac.” I heard a small moan. I went on to describe the setting. I could sense her smile.  In life, nature was where she found peace and perfection. Nature could also survive the storms. She had too–for better or worse—until now.

“Remember to find me. Every year I will wait for them to bloom. And I’ll know you’re here with me,” I said through tears.

I heard a deep breath and sigh.

“I just wanted to make sure we have our plan in place,” I continued. “That you won’t forget.” My voice remained strong.  For many years, I was the mother to my mother. This day was no exception.

“You can go now.”

I hung up the phone. That was the last time I spoke to her. She died two days later on June 7, 2011.

So now I wait until next spring when we talk again.


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  1. by Isha

    On July 11, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    My condolences on the loss of your mother. That is the most beautiful story I’ve heard in a long time. May she rest in peace.

  2. by Kristle

    On July 11, 2011 at 2:21 pm

    My condolences, that’s a beautiful story. I too have recently lost my mother on June 17 her favorite flower gardenias

  3. by Terri Werner

    On July 11, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    Condolences to you. I hope when I am gone my children remember all the times I fed a stranger or helped someone in need…and they follow as I did. I am a bunny figurine collector…I hope whenever they see a bunny…it makes them remember me…and beings them a smile.

  4. by Bethany

    On July 11, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    My deepest sympathies on your loss. Thank you for sharing this story. I am so glad that you were able to have that conversation with your mom. God bless you and your family…

  5. by jamie parker

    On July 11, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    What a beautiful piece. I lost my own mother 2-1/2 years ago, and this quickly stung my heart. I wish I had that last moment to speak to her. I am amazed by your strength and thank you for sharing such raw emotion with us. I will keep you and your family on my heart and in my prayers. My sincere condolences on your loss….

  6. by Eileen

    On July 11, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your mother, words alone are hard to find in times like this, but I offer you a story of my own mothers death, which I hope you can appreciate.
    I was very close to my mother, she was a wonderful wife, mother, friend and sister who always gave to others above herself. I spoke her on the morning of her very sudden death, we hung up and she had a fatal heart attack about 5 minutes later, I was devastated to say the least. On a day when I was feeling very lonely, I decided to go to the cemetery to ‘talk’ with her, I got into my car and noticed a feather on my windshield and got a chill, I knew it was her telling me it would be alright. A few days later my father told me a similar story, them my sister and brother told me it too, we all found them in a time we were very lonely or sad.
    This was over 15 years ago, I still find them but mostly in times of happiness, when my girls were born, on days we enjoyed the beach or had a great time which Mom would have enjoyed, I see them.
    Your mother will be with you always and if you open your mind to let her in, you’ll also find something every day that will remind you or help you through hard days.
    Blessings to you now and always!

  7. by Trish

    On July 11, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    Why wouldn’t you attempt to go visit your mother before she died? Why not pick a lilac and bring it to her?

  8. by Danielle

    On July 11, 2011 at 4:10 pm

    Thank you for sharing your touching story. I lost my mother 7 months ago. A month after my first born son was born. She got to met him and I remember saying to goodbye to her in a similar manner she was in hospice. My mother too was very fond of her garden and even at her funeral the minister said something to that their wasn’t a flower my mother had met that she didn’t like. Soon I be getting a place in which I can honor her memory by planting a very beautiful garden and I am glad you are doing the same. It will be something I will be able to share with my children.

  9. by Darlene

    On July 11, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    My heart goes out to you. Besides lilacs, you also have your beautiful baby to remind you of your mom.

  10. by Julia

    On July 11, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    Oh, Jill, I am so very sorry for your loss. This post is beautiful.

  11. by Christy

    On July 11, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. I am so sorry for your loss. We recently lost my mother-in-law who fought through many health problems the last 2 1/2 years to see her granddaughter born & get to know her. She had a grandson, born 20 years before my daughter, so she was thrilled to get a granddaughter! She died 3 days before my daughter turned 2.I am struggling with her loss. I wanted my daughter to have her own memories of this wonderful woman who loved her so but now I must rely on sharing stories & memories with Emily.
    My MIL, Ruth, loved purple & now everytime I see a lilac I will think of her & of this wonderful story you shared. Thank you.

  12. by Jill Cordes

    On July 11, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    Thank you all so much for your stories and your kindness. It is really great to hear from others and to have you share your own experiences as well. I’ll be posting another one tomorrow. xo

  13. by Angie

    On July 12, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    My condolences, Jill. This is a very touching story. I hope you are able to sense your mom with you every spring!

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