Flowers and Ashes

If I could, I would bring you lilacs from my yard

Soft and purple, dizzying like love sitting in an old Kerr jar

I would set them on your dinner table,

Walk away if I was able

There are so many ways to love.


Time is all we have and we cannot control it

Much as we try, if we are truthful, we know it

I filled mine up with fantasies and gave them to you for free

Til what was left of you came tumbling down


Holy stones and dancing bones

is all that’s left to give

One wants to let you go, the other make you live

But I am made of flesh and fear

Just like all the others here

I will roll back the covers

And see what’s left here to discover


You were a shelter when the winds were blowing

You were a wildfire burning out of control with my knowing

With my knowing


My mom died too young — at the age of 67. She was not well – suffering from the long term affects of smoking for 47 years and drinking her grief away. No one really expected it, though. One morning, she just never woke up. Dad found her perched at the end of the kitchen counter as if she was asleep. I found out the morning of my Birthday.

Occasionally the grief of knowing that we did not intervene haunts me. We made plans, but as soon as we were on the verge, she would magically become more functional. Now I know it was just another step in the progression of alcoholism. Then, it seemed like she was laying off the hooch.

I have been thinking about her. Today is “Ash Wednesday” in the Christian church calendar. The service is usually somber and a bit spooky. If you have not gone and you are open to various religious expressions, it is a cool experience. A clergy-type presses ashes in the sign of the cross and says, “Shannon, from dust you have come and to dust you shall return. Now have a nice Lent.”  No, not really the last sentence. In truth, a reality check is not the worst thing in the world for you, even if you are in earnest pursuit of your bliss. For me Lent is an invitation to think about issues of justice and mercy and to consider the hopes I have for my own spiritual development.

It used to be that a mental picture of ashes brought to mind the dogged layers of cigarette ash that sat on every flat surface in my childhood home. And the abandoned cigarette that had burned out leaving an ash slug in perfect formation.

Now, though, since she died, ashes bring my mom to mind.  I think of the sandy ash of her bones that we dumped into Priest Lake. There she was, condensed down into a square box with an unromantic plastic bag full of mom in it.

She loved the lilac bushes at the farm. Even though they made dad sneeze, we would bring them inside and plop them into a jar on the kitchen table. They weren’t odiferous enough to mask the smell of smoke that infiltrated every corner of the house, but that fact did not lessen my mom’s appreciation of them. Eventually they would fall, tiny blossoms that turned brown like ants, and surround the vase of stems and green leaves. Always with her ash tray parked right next to them.


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