Saturday, May 17, 2014

Condolences from our yard, shattering nature's plan

Little Elegy
by Elinor Wylie

Withouten you
No rose can grow;
No leaf be green
If never seen
Your sweetest face;
No bird have grace
Or power to sing,
Or anything
Be kind, or fair,
And you nowhere.


There is a crab apple tree in our front yard.  It is small and low, yet sprawling, and beneath it are two large flat landscape stones, set at near perfect elevation.  In mid-spring, for just a few days, the delicate white blossoms of the tree are the absolute centerpiece of our landscape.  After Zachary was born, and hope was high, it occurred to me that the crab tree would bloom well after his release from the hospital in early March.  I vowed to capture some photos of our boys there this spring, in front of the fleeting beauty of that blooming tree.  I imagined allowing C.T. to hold Zachary, while sitting on the stone there, soft white permeating the background of the snapshots.  I remember my heart thumping with anticipation to bring Zachary home, to have a photo of two (of my three) boys together there in front of the tree, both of them thriving.  I could hardly wait. 

On the side of our home is a row of purple tulips bulbs, planted on a cold day by B and C.T., late in the fall two years ago.  There was much excitement last spring as we waited for the first sign of green to poke through the earth, for the growth of those leaves to ultimately reveal the flower within.  They were beautiful last year.  How I dreaded those tulips forcing their health and beauty on me, again this year.   

But somehow, the crab apple tree and the tulips knew not to mock their caretakers.  Neither of them bloomed this spring.  The crab tree went from brown with shriveled apples, to green.  The tulip greens emerged, but not one of them showed their flower.  As if to say: We are so sorry.  It is all wrong.  Nature demands that we emerge from the winter, but our beauty has been totally drained in Zachary's absence.  We refuse to bloom in respect of your unthinkable loss, your deep, deep sorrow.  

I am certain there is some weather-related explanation for the lack of spring blooms in our yard this spring.  But, how strange and appropriate it feels to me, in the aftermath of Zachary's death. 


The sun rises in the east.  The winter inevitably yields to spring.  The tides ebb and flow with comforting predictability.  Seeds take root, push their greenery toward the sun, bloom, produce new seeds, wither and died, all in orderly progression according to nature's plan.  When an aged parent dies, though we may grieve deeply for the personal loss, the world is not turned upside down.  Nature's plan, the predictability of the universe, remains intact.  When a child dies, the very ground on which we depend for stability heaves and quakes and the rightness and orderliness of our existence are destroyed.  Nothing in life prepares us; no coping skills were learned.  Parents who lose children are thrown into chaos.  The loss of a child is shattering, unique among losses. 

~ Judith Bernstein, Ph.D., from her book, When the Bough Breaks


  1. wow, yes. it warms my heart that nature spoke to you that way. "Nature demands that we emerge from the winter, but our beauty has been totally drained in Zachary's absence"

  2. This speaks to me so much. I have been baffled by the awakening of spring in this time of inner despair...
    My thoughts go out to you and Zachary.

  3. How I dreaded those tulips forcing their health and beauty on me, again this year.

    But somehow, the crab apple tree and the tulips knew not to mock their caretakers. Neither of them bloomed this spring.


    They knew. The all-wrong-ness. They knew - but so much else in life plows forward in brutal ignorance.

    I want it all to stop. All to acknowledge. All to say, what is fitting is to stay still. Blooms have no right to bloom.

    Not now. Not here.

    Your boys, you, stay with my heart.