All it takes is a familiar tune or the scent of sun-warmed pine straw on a summer breeze and I am right back huddled in my loss. That's the price I pay for the blessing of knowing and loving an amazing mother. Two years have come and gone since she slipped into God's presence and out of mine, but I miss her no less.
Not a day goes by that I don't shed tears borne of my longing to feel her hand in mine, to see her smile or hear her amply-shared wisdom. Like no other in my life, she believed in me. No matter my endeavor, she was first in line with praise and encouragement. She wanted nothing more than my happiness. I pray nearly every day for a sign from her, and I have taken to collecting pennies cast off by strangers as reminders of her love for me. It makes no sense, I know, but it brings me comfort.
I keep her words in mind knowing the daunting obstacles she faced throughout her life--polio, gender bias, poverty and her confining role as a pastor's wife. I have little holding me back.
As I pondered those very issues, recounting conversations with my mother a few weeks ago, the phone rang. It was a lady in Clarke County who was passionate about a pear tree near her home place. It was in full bloom, she told me, and she wanted the world to see it, old and gnarled and beautiful as it was. I explained to her that the column I wrote for years had been discontinued, but I would love to see it. After a few phone calls back and forth, we did make the journey.
The tree was spectacular with hollows and twists and turns earned in a century of growth. For a pear tree, it has lived an amazing life. I photographed it from every angle, appreciated the petals covering the ground in a blanket of white. Watching my new friend caressing the trunk lovingly, I marked another sign.
You see, my mother loved trees too, particularly a pear tree growing at the house where she grew up, where I later picked soft juicy pears. I remember how sad she was when the tree died years ago. In my springtime journey to rural Clarke County, I felt her love and her support all around me. I am still learning to live without her physically here to guide me, to call me at odd times and tell me to gather my strength and forge ahead. Hit the floor running, she would often say.
In each day I count since her exit, I am learning to see her face in other ways. Sunsets, blooming gardenias, pennies on the ground and the smiles of my children bring her close to me, just like that twisted old glorious hollow pear tree.