Whenever I smell lilacs I think of Mama. Mom and Dad planted a whole big border of them in the back yard when I was growing up, and they are still flourishing there today. Mom used to pick big bunches of them and fill vases with their beauty and the house with their scent.
When we were in grade school Mom would send bouquets of them with me for my teachers, the stems wrapped in wet paper towel and tin foil.
And I still remember, the year I miscarried a much wanted baby. Mom brought over a bouquet of lilacs with some crab apple blossoms mixed in. And the scent and simple arrangement brought a gentle comfort to my heart.
Now I walk right through a gap we cut in the lilac hedges, as I use my backyard gate, and walk into Mama’s yard. And when the lilacs are blooming I always stop and smell them and revel in their abundance and aroma. Because they are short lived. And their beauty is fleeting.
I cut branches from Mama’s bushes, and from our own lilacs that we grew from runner shoots of Mom and Dad’s bushes. And I fill vases in my house. And I break off a few stems for Mama.
I put them in a vase and set them close to her. But she doesn’t look at them. I hold them up in front of her, close to her face, and say, “Mama, do you want to smell the lilacs?” But she just looks confused, or tries to bite them.
So I leave the vase on her side table. And hope that the sweet smell brings back memories of sunnier days. And of smiles. I hope they bring a gentle comfort to her heart.
And before I leave, I stop and bend close to Mama. And I take in the beauty of her softly wrinkled face. I stroke her silver hair. I hold her hand. I kiss her forehead and say, ” It’s me, Mom. I’m Cheryl. I love you, Mama.”
And I walk back home, through the gap in the lilac hedges, that Mama planted and loved.