gray garden

My mother died three weeks ago. The cancer, which the priest said, “bent to her will for so long”, would bend no more. Those offering condolences have occasionally referred to my mother’s strong will. I couldn’t help but smile when one of her acquaintances uttered, “She was something.” They were right-- my mother was “something”--so much better than nothing, don’t you think?

One of the items my mother asked to be placed in her casket was a picture of our family taken on a Christmas Day long ago. I was a toddler at the time. Everyone was smiling, except me. I wonder why?

During the month I assisted with my mother's care, I witnessed death and insufferable pain as I never had before. Although I’ve acquiesced to those forces in the past during partings with loved ones and friends, it was the first time I’d faced the true ferocity of their raw, relentless power.

I now find myself in a subdued state, my energy depleted as I entertain and answer questions posed by our ongoing renovation activities . . . as I consider the preparations that must be made for our holiday guests. I remain engaged, yet I sense a subtle void in all I do, an emptiness that might vastly increase if my mother hadn’t left me with two gifts- her love of gardening and creative work.

As soon as I returned home after the funeral, I went to work in my garden. I wondered, as I removed dead vines and repotted new plants, if my mother, an avid gardener, had responded to loss in a similar way. Had she found comfort in turning the soil, planting flowers, and observing the birds, butterflies and lizards that called her garden their home?

I resumed work in my studio as well, silently urged by the creative spirit that always beckoned to my mother and me. After days of empty musings, I revisited some of  my photographs and fashioned these images, inspired no doubt, by the recent work in the garden and my solemn state. I envision them scattered about the house during the holiday season, providing embellishments for various gifts or even simple tags for the tree. They are my simple allusions to that departed gardener and the pale, yet nonetheless beautiful, gray garden left behind.


  1. You indeed have her gifts and use them beautifully. I also have the love of gardening and I do believe that was Mom's way of meditation and showing love to others. I am probably way off but I think when she toom care of plants and gave away plants she was expressing her love for God and other people. Plus a plant always listens.