November 25, 2017

Tree of Life by Caroline Taylor

When my mom passed away from colon cancer eight years ago, when my third son was just four months old, I remember my aunt sympathetically telling me, “Your mom was one of the special grandmas,” as if it was a secret and exclusive club. With the pain from her death weighing on me like a rock tied to my heart, I knew exactly what she meant. My mom was the kind of grandma who not only loved all of her grandkids, but also truly enjoyed the time she spent with them, no matter what they were doing.


I would watch with amazement while she spent hours lying on my older son’s bedroom floor,  playing Candy Land over and over, until she had carpet indentations on her elbows and her brain had nearly turned to mush. She listened and watched intently as my son explained every working piece of his giant Lego city, asking questions and enjoying the excitement in his eyes.


In the spring, my mom would take my boys into the backyard and let them dig into the soil with their small hands, teaching them about how to plant, feed, and nurture young seedlings. In fact, when my mom passed away and we moved to our current city, my oldest son insisted that we dig up the dwarf orange tree and transplant it into our new yard. On moving day, he exclaimed, “Mema and I planted that together!” Of course we needed to take it with us.


For years the little tree survived the new conditions, yet never bore fruit. Three years later, on my son’s tenth birthday, my son came running into the house carrying a small, dark orange piece of fruit above his head like a trophy. “Mom!” he announced. “Look what Mema gave me for my birthday?” Needless to say, it was the most special gift he could receive, and we carefully cut it into pieces so that we could all enjoy the sweetness.


During the winter, when my mom was weak and nauseated from the weekly chemo treatments and radiation, and a scarf covered her bald head, she would sit my two sons on the kitchen counter and let them make big messes, pouring flour, sugar, cracking eggs, and licking wooden spoons full of delicious cookie dough. They were so excited by what they had created and her patience never wavered. In fact, she would whisper to them, “The secret to cooking is this…the messier your kitchen, the better the food!” Looking around, I could tell they were creating a masterpiece, and the boys were completely engaged in the process. I watched her with admiration, and tried to soak up as much as I could, since I knew our time was limited.


Perhaps that is the point, that our time is limited. Some people in this world seem to get this and some do not, but my mom always seemed to understand. She had a way of living for the moment, and had a true appreciation for time spent with her family.


I am forever grateful for the time that we had with her, and the life lessons she passed on to me as a mom. Just the other day my middle son said to me, “I still remember when we wrote letters to Mema and put them into balloons to float up to heaven.” He was only three at the time of her death, but he still recalls the deep loss we all felt when she left our world. As a sweet reminder of my mom, our dwarf orange tree still stands strong behind our waterfall, watching my kids splash and play in the pool, enduring the freezing and hot temperatures, and reminding us of her love and appreciation for time spent with each other.


In the end, isn’t that really what matters the most?


Caroline is the mother of 3 sons



  1. Lovely tribute, your Mom must be so proud of the thoughtful daughter she raised.

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