Stop to Smell the Lilacs: A Mother’s Day Reflection

By Lydia Wylie-Kellermann

I keep clearing space to write this piece and then finding a dozen other things to do instead. Perhaps a sign that I need to write this and perhaps a  that it is harder to do than I expected.

Over the last few years, I’ve spent hours and hours gathering a book on parenting. Although I don’t write much about my mom within, she breathes there from beginning to end. I have so much love and appreciation for how she nurtured who I am in both her living and her dying.

I know that Mother’s Day is complicated. There is joy and love and celebration, but there is also grief and pain and longing.

It has been 16 Mother’s Days without my mom now.

I still feel her shadow around me. She looms behind doors and around corners. Her life blessed this place I call home. My mom’s waters broke with me only a few miles from where my own waters broke. We have both been fed by these same waters and our lives and bodies have nourished this place in return.

There is a lilac tree in my yard that is a sister to one that used to grow along the fence line. The flowers would droop over the fence offering smell and soul nourishment to all who passed. I used to walk around the block with my mom in her years with brain cancer. Most tasks in those days were slow and muddled. But a walk when the flowers were in bloom was very, very slow work. It might be half an hour we would stand in front of this yard just smelling and delighting. I was learning to slow down and pay attention.

Sometimes I look at our fence line now and think about her. I never would have imagined living in this house five doors down from where I grew up, but perhaps she was blessing it with love and delight for me. Perhaps she could see the love and joy that would one day fill this yard and knew she wouldn’t be here for it. I wish now I would have let her linger a little longer.

If losing her has taught me anything, it’s to widen the circles of communities. The hole she left has forced me to seek out a circle of mothers near and far (who I also give thanks for this Mother’s Day). I can never pickup the phone and call my mom when I am scared and my kids fevers hitting 103 or call in tears when my kids talk about active shooter drills as school. I’ll never stop wishing I could.

But even now, we aren’t alone. There are folks to call. Elders with stories and time. Friends with imagination and humor. And so many struggling to hold the same fears and questions.

I’m so grateful to have spent some years gathering one such circle to lay stories in this book. And I am even more grateful to see those stories and circles expand as it lands in the world like a stone hitting a still pond.

Thank you, mom, for loving me, for knowing me, for trusting in who I was and who I would become. I miss you and I am always grateful.

Lydia Wylie-Kellermann is a writer, activist, and mother in Detroit, Michigan. She is the editor of Geez magazine and The Sandbox Revolution: Raising Kids for a Just World.

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