Photo by Sandi Clarke at Unsplash
This is my first Mother’s Day without my mom. I miss her.
I wrote a flash fiction piece in 2009 that explored what losing a mother might be like and ways healing from grief might come. Obviously this was well before I knew that experience first hand, but isn’t that what fiction is about? Seeing life through someone else’s eyes and learning about ourselves at the same time?
Now that I have lived it, I believe it rings true, even if my own mother was not a gardener like the mother in this story. I hope you find encouragement or faith or even a little smile.
And if your mom is still with us–give her a call today, okay? She’d love to hear from you.
The Honor Garden by Glynis Becker
“Exactly when are we going to have our dining room table back?” Tom asked me, moving aside one stack of seed catalogs, so he could set down his coffee.
“When I have decided that I am finished using it,” I teased, sticking out my tongue. “And how come all of a sudden it’s ‘our’ table? Thirty-five years and you’ve never once cleaned it off or polished it. I’ll give it back when I’m done.” I laughed. Tom got up to stand behind me. He leaned over and pecked my cheek, giving my shoulders a little squeeze.
“I know. This is important to you. But just know that I’ll be glad when you can plant these things, so I have somewhere to eat my steak. I almost sent the flour canister into the trash can last night, trying to eat cut my meat standing at the island in the kitchen. I’m ready for a proper sit-down meal!” He shook his head, grabbed his mug and went in the other room.
He left me with my catalogs and my seedlings. I had turned the entire dining room, including the table, side buffet and several card tables I’d snagged from other rooms in the house, into a greenhouse. All winter I’d poured over the catalogs, making notes, drawing diagrams, researching, scouring the Internet for everything I could find about growing flowers and vegetables.
Mama had always known exactly what went where in the yard, when it needed to be planted, how much food and water and sunlight to make it grow. But she was gone and I knew I had to do this for her. No, scratch that–this was for me.
She’d only taken sick at the end of last summer. And by New Year’s she was gone. The winter had vanished in a solemn blur. I’m sure the girls had come back for Christmas. I know I’d played with the grandchildren, read stories, gone to church. But it never felt real. I felt like my own shadow, dark and visible, but without any substance.
I couldn’t even pray. What was I supposed to say? God, I know that everybody dies, but why did you take my mama so soon? Why didn’t you make me ready for it? Why didn’t you heal her? I wasn’t angry, really, just disappointed that my faith was so small I couldn’t find the joy I’d always thought I’d have when the time came.
But then the seed catalog showed up in the mail. It was addressed to Mama and I almost threw it out, when something made me thumb through it. An idea came to me and as I perused the glossy photos of all the things I could grow, I started to feel excited. That’s when the long nights on the computer and massive checkouts of library books began. I knew I’d gone overboard when Tom listened, glassy-eyed, to the fifteenth conversation that started with, “So I was thinking about our soil’s pH levels…” but I was sure I was on to something.
Mama had always wanted to share her love of gardening with me, but I’d had no interest. Except when it came to all the benefits: fresh tomatoes, homemade pickles, bouquets of my very favorite flowers, I was all over that. But this year, since I had no mama to do it for me, I’d decided to plant my own garden for her instead.
So here I sit in my makeshift greenhouse where every day I putter, adjusting lights, checking the soil and water levels to be sure that these plants will say everything that I want my mama to hear. And I know that with God’s help when the spring comes, I’ll be ready for it, in my garden and in my heart.