In the Shadow of the Tree

My mum passed away seven years ago today. I was devastated and although I still miss her, I have surrounded myself with reminders of her in every element of my life. In the kitchen at work, there is a plate and cruet set that belonged to mum. I have a cardigan in my wardrobe that still smells like mum and my living room contains a clock and two ornaments from her house.  Although these are material things that keep her memory alive and they give me a degree of emotional security, I know that nature has welded not only me but my own children and grandchildren to Mum in a bond that can’t be broken. Good or bad – genes run through all of us in every tear we shed, every cell our body renews and every memory stored forever in the synapses of our brain, fueled by the strength of our five senses.

I can still smell my mum on the cardigan in her wardrobe, I can close my eyes and remember what my parents looked like at various ages, I can touch things like the plate, the cruet set, the clock and the ornaments and I can hear her humming along to a favourite tune when it comes on the radio.

In 2007, one year after Mum died, I wrote this poem while sitting on a bench at the crematorium near the tree where we had scattered Dad’s ashes in December 2001 and Mum’s in December 2006.


My mother died a year ago today
We scattered her ashes just here.
Where five years earlier almost to the exact day
We scattered Dad’s earthly remains.

2002 – the first December we sat on the seat
Just over there – my mother and I.
“He’s not here,” she said. “I don’t feel him here.”
But we heard my dad, that year, as we sat in silent memory, one year on.
We heard him in the gentle rustle of the trees.
In the wind that sent autumn’s leaves scurrying across the path,
And the birdsong that filled the late autumn air with melody.

2003 – the second December we sat on the seat
Just over there – my mother and I.
“He’s not here,” she said. “I don’t feel him here.”
But we could smell him in the fragrance of the freesias
We set gently under the tree
And the earth we turned as we planted snowdrops, in his memory,
And the sweet smell of grass mingled with the faint aroma of pine trees.

2004 – the third December we sat on the seat
Just over there – my mother and I.
“He’s not here,” she said. “I don’t feel him here.”
But we could touch him so easily with our minds
If we closed our eyes, reached out and stroked his cheek,
Hugged him tightly and felt the warmth and sensation of his skin
On our skin. The comforting gentle caress of his hands on ours.

2005 – the fourth December we sat on the seat
Just over there – my mother and I.
“He’s not here, she said. “I don’t feel him here.”
But we could taste him in a sweet cup of tea (which he loved).
Digestive biscuits; chicken soup; fresh warm bread and best butter;
And roast beef and Yorkshire pudding – his favourite;
And apricots; and bacon and eggs on a Sunday morning
Cooked with mum’s apron tied around his waist.

2006 – the fifth December I sat on the seat
Just over there – alone.
“They’re not here, I thought. “I don’t feel them here.”
Scattered ashes, barely visible after a few days.
Earth to earth, dust to dust, ashes to ashes. Empty. Lonely. Lost.
Senses frozen in silent, cold, grief.

2007 – the sixth December I sit on the seat
Just here – alone.
“They’re not here, I think. “I don’t feel them here.”
But I close my eyes and imagine. I can SEE them!
They come with me this year, my mum and my dad, to this place of peace. Reunited, holding hands as they sit with me on the bench
I can hear them, smell them, touch them, taste them, see them
whenever I like for they are with me always
In all my senses.


One thought on “In the Shadow of the Tree

  1. It’s a true gift to put feelings in to words, words written then silently read. Touching and arousing feelings that the reader usually buries deep inside themselves. Thank you.

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