Life Notes: Flowers Bring Back Memories of ‘Mamaw’
by Erin Rocket, LPC, LMFT

As I began the annual spring ritual of planting flowerbeds, I recalled a poignant conversation with my grandmother Audrey. Last summer I spent many long afternoons with my grandmother who passed away in July at the age of eighty nine. She was a rather strong-minded lady of Irish and Native American heritage. In her latter years she suffered the loss of her husband, many siblings, and two of her adult children. To compound the tragedy, she also lost her eyesight to glaucoma in the mid 1980’s.

Despite ongoing losses, Audrey, or “Mamaw” as she was fondly known by the family, always was thinking of others. She always remembered birthdays with a card and a call and was quick to offer refreshments to any visitor who stopped to say “hello”. A love of music sustained her throughout the last days, particularly folk and Southern gospel.

Audrey also shared the love of gardening with her grandchildren. As a busy farmer’s wife, there was never much time to devote to a structured flower garden, but she persisted in planting favorites such as rambling roses, marigolds, celosia, and gardenias. The althea bush at the back fence of the family farmhouse was a subject of pride.

Our typical gardening conversation arose one bittersweet afternoon as I spent the day at Audrey’s hospital bedside a few weeks before her death. She awoke from a sound sleep and began recounting a list of favorite plants she used for landscaping. In the midst of listing plants, she turned to me and declared that I must plant three varieties for her, if nothing else. “I want you to plant marigolds and celosia, and see if my old rambling rose has runners you can transplant to your yard.”

Since that afternoon, I’ve often wandered through the backyard, admiring rambling roses and a towering althea shrub while thinking of her. My marigolds straggled, and celosia did not survive, but my enthusiasm for planting is undiminished. Mamaw Audrey taught me a valuable lesson in life and gardening: often the joy is not in the results you attain, but in getting your hands dirty while trying.

The Life Notes articles are written by staff of Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home and are published in The Ruston Daily Leader.

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