Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Redbuds and memories

It's Tuesday and I am participating in the
Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for nurturing teacher-writers!

This past Friday, April 9th, was a spectacular spring day to be outside. Tony and I worked together in the yard, trying to eradicate those endless weeds and spotlight the spring flowers. I had a writer's notebook at the ready, trying to capture "live action" words for writing haiku, which was that day's poetry prompt with Dr. Sarah Donovan's Ethical ELA #VerseLove, where I am writing poetry every day in April.

We worked quietly, slowly, trowels in hand, moving the dirt, tossing the weeds, enjoying the day. We were already aware of the date and then noticed our redbud in peak bloom, always a beautiful sight. Both of us immediately got a little misty-eyed, and began to talk about its meaning. 

You see, we planted it to commemorate Tony's father, who died April 9, 1995. Twenty-six years ago. Wow. 

How can this time be, at once, both so long ago and yet so current, so right there, at the ready?
Are you finding yourself so much more raw and accessible, big emotions right there on your sleeve, during this time of pandemic? I find myself thinking back, reflecting frequently, on those I've loved who have died. 

Is it simply because I'm getting older? 
Is it spending sweet time with my granddaughters, seeing 'the passage of time'? 
Is it the loss of my father, earlier this year, after losing my mother two years ago, and this realization that I'm the older generation now?
Is it being retired, spending more time writing and reflecting?
Perhaps all of these play a role, but I think it mostly has to do with this time of grief we are all living through. This world in grief.
Without a doubt, I am so much more aware of the brevity of life. 

Tony and I, we remembered how, when we received word that Papaw had died, we immediately packed up the kids and the car and drove the long drive south from Maryland to Atlanta to be with family, to be in mourning. All along the long, long drive, spring flowers were blooming, and what was especially beautiful were these gorgeous purple blossoms that seemed to burst through the greenery of the trees - redbud trees. All along the way, purple, purple, purple. 

My father-in-law died at age 87, a couple months before our youngest son was born. He was a truly good and kind soul and it's always made me sad that I only knew him for maybe seven-eight years, that I had not had more time with him. We lost three of Tony's family in 1995; in addition to his father, who died of cancer, he lost two older brothers, one to a heart attack and one to cancer. It was a brutal year for us, in our young marriage, grieving all this loss. 

Lots has happened in those twenty-six years. Our youngest child is an adult now, and he never even got to meet this grandfather. His whole memory of Papaw and his uncles is through our family stories, memories shared. Even our older sons were short-changed in their time with these loved ones, being only 6 and 3 years of age. 

I do believe we have done a pretty good job of sharing memories with them, through the years. 

But that is the way life works, yes? We live and we die. If we are lucky, we get to love and be loved. Yes, for me, this awareness of the tenderness, the fleetingness, the fragility of life is felt more profoundly during this time of pandemic, with so many abbreviated lives all around. 

Let me close with some haikus about these redbud reflections - Tony and I actually wrote the fifth one together, which was very sweet.

day in the garden
turning over the soil
memories flowing

we planted a redbud
to bloom each year at this time
in your memory

when the redbud blooms 
we remember when you died
and sent us kisses 

flashes of purple
amongst the bright greenery
throughout the mountains

flowering redbuds
reassurances from you
all the long drive south


  1. What a lovely slice. I felt like we were sitting down to coffee and you shared this with me. I love how your remember your father in law in this special way. It touched my heart.

    1. Thank you, Jill! Wouldn't it be lovely to sit down to coffee together? My goodness, I haven't been in a coffee shop in so long.

  2. I was moved by your words and found myself nodding my head over and over. I lost my father in 1995, too, so the connections were poignant. Thank you for the tenderness and the lovely haiku poems.

    1. Thank you! It is really strange that 1995 can feel so recent, isn't it?

  3. Maureen, what a beautiful, heartfelt post. I am always so blessed by your words, and today I'm weeping together with you about the loss of so much during this pandemic and before. You have really expressed so clearly about how the pandemic is exacerbating some of these feelings for me. Thank you. Your haikus are beautiful. I missed them on Saturday, so I'm so glad you shared them here, along with the story surrounding them.

  4. A very touching post. So special to have celebrated & honored Papaw's life digging in a garden and writing a haiku with his son. Love was planted all day long.