When Lupines Bloom, I Think of Him

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My husband Vic and I planted many pounds of wildflower seeds in our fields over the years. Wild grasses devoured some of them, but the lupines thrived and self-seeded on broad hillsides. On the day of Vic’s death in June 2008, lupines bloomed with wild abandon, erupting from the earth with thousands of tall purple spikes.

In 2009, after my first long year of grieving, the lupines sent up flower stalks again. They pushed their way through my numb despair. Life goes on, they insisted. Open your eyes. There is joy here.

Wanting to share the beauty, I invited my community for a walk to mark this sad anniversary. My sons planned to be home, so they could be part of the day. Friends organized a dish-to-pass feast with plenty of local Finger Lakes wine. I hoped for a day of remembrance, but even more a day of thanks for my friends, my sons, and the land that held and soothed my grief.

Throughout an afternoon of sunshine and soft breezes, people arrived to celebrate Vic’s life and admire the flowers. Some walked alone in walking meditation, some laughed in small groups, and some moved silently, holding hands. They strolled along trails bordered by lupines and daisies and headed for the oak knoll.

As people began their walk near the house, they passed others returning for wine and food. I walked toward the woods with one group for a while and then turned to walk back toward the house with another. I spent the afternoon strolling back and forth through the fields, greedily devouring hugs and love, admiring my smiling friends in their pastel summer clothes, and adoring the purple lupines.

Eventually I made my way to the oak knoll where a group sat silently on granite stones, tree trunks, and the forest floor. Serenaded by birds, we circled the stone cairn where Vic’s ashes were buried, absorbing his absence and the mystery of what remained. I placed a bouquet of lupines there.

My sons had dreaded this first anniversary day, imagining a somber affair with a weeping mother and an avalanche of sympathetic, solicitous looks. Instead, we temporarily put our tears aside and celebrated that we were together and that Vic was once here, too.

“It’s wonderful to see you smile,” my oldest son said as he pulled me close.

***

A few days later, I grabbed a rake and bags of lupine and northeast wildflower seeds and walked with my dog to a cleared area near the entry to the woods. My sons had prepared this new planting site before they left. I raked the heavy soil, flung seeds in every direction, and pressed them into the earth with my boots. I planted seeds of hope for new life and watered them with tears.

Years later, I still walk the trails and watch for lupines each spring. This year, I found their distinctive silvery leaves in early April. Once again, they’ve spread to new areas of the land. They’ll grow three feet tall and send up purple flowers in late May. On June 3, the eighth anniversary of Vic’s death, I’ll walk through blooming fields, remember my husband, and give thanks for life and continuing love.

***

This article includes revised passages from my book Leaning into Love: A Spiritual Journey through Grief.

Elaine Mansfield

More Articles Written by Elaine

Elaine Mansfield’s memoir ‘Leaning into Love: A Spiritual Journey through Grief’ (2014) won the 2015 Gold Medal IPPY Award (Independent Publisher’s Book Awards) in the category Aging, Death, and Dying. Elaine gave a well-received TEDx talk called “Good Grief! What I Learned from Loss.” The talk is available under her name at Youtube.com. She has also read excerpts from her book on NPR’s Author’s Corner. Elaine writes for hospice, facilitates bereavement support groups, and gives workshops and presentations in many locations. She writes with a perspective that reflects her hospice training as well as 40 years as a student of philosophy, psychology, mythology, and meditation. She also writes a weekly blog (http://elainemansfield.com/blog/) about the adventures and lessons of life and loss. To learn more about Elaine’s work, please visit her website at http://elainemansfield.com.

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