The Shift


My Mom's coffin was the blackest thing I have ever seen. Like Malevich's painting. Like a black hole in space. Watching the big yellow front end loader dig out just enough space to lower her into the ground I considered the soil composition (lots of sand) and the absurdity of a box inside another concrete box. It rained. We stood in a loose circle around the hole watching the loader's claw violently tearing at the sodden earth again and again and then pushing a big metal frame down to keep the sidewalls of earth from collapsing. When the casket was lowered into the ground I looked at my nephew; his expression is forever etched into my mind. As is the sound of the soil hitting the box.

The universe has shifted. I expected and even prayed for this death. I didnt realize how heartbroken I would be once it happened. Somehow I am not the same person I used to be. There's nothing to be done about it.

My sister longed for a road trip and drove me back to the ATL. I-75 bottlenecked at the Turnpike with sunburnt spring break kids from northern colleges and big rigs inching along under a perfect dome of florida blue. We got off and went west on 44 and north on  27. I was hoping for more marshy landscapes but it was mostly Florida scrub with only the Withlacoochee river to offer a water view. We stopped for lunch at the Cypress Inn for some soul healing fried food. They had sold out of the mullet but we found the massive serving of grouper agreeable along with hushpuppies and sub-par mashed potatoes. The swamp cabbage was not up to snuff. According to my sister it should have been sauteed in butter and left mostly alone. (Swamp cabbage is hearts-of-palm in case you didn't know.)

When we crossed over the Georgia border the landscape began to roll a bit and it was lovely. If you have  a few extra hours, like 5, then this is the way to go. No billboards. Lots of pecan trees and grassy glades dotted with a yellow flowered cover crop. There was yard art and little towns and trailers and beautiful cows. We pulled into Thomasville Ga, the rose capital of the south (so they say) and tracked down a nursery that carried a certain rose my Mom loved. The nursery was closed but they opened it for us anyway and we left with 5 rose bushes. The last 4 hours were mostly dark and quiet until erupting into a big city friday night. Another traffic jam forced us off the super slab offering an opportunity to expose my sister to the Atlanta she has never seen.


Now I am back at Chickory alone at last. Its spring. I may have missed my window to have the tree work done. They have all leafed out which means I will get less done for the same money. Maybe I should wait for winter. But the land is gorgeous in its fresh greens and Easter colored blooming trees and shrubs. Palm Sunday was glorious after the big rain and high winds of early saturday morning. As we enter the most solemn week of the year, I am reminded of something I read at my Mom's funeral:

"All the works of the Lord are exceedingly good"

**Thank you all, for your kind words and comments regarding my Mother's death. I did see the special posts and tributes that you made, and I promise to get to your blogs and thank you properly. Know that I cherish you all as my blog family and that your kindness has been remarkable in its gift of healing.

xo Chickory


  1. The soil in the southeast TX pine forest is sandy like that. When I was 12, I watched the funeral home workers back-fill my grandfather's grave until it was done. I found peace in that. The others had drifted away to talk in small groups.

    Take care.

  2. I remember Atlanta traffic! Going in circles with all the streets with Peach in their names and going crazy!

    I'm glad you were able to spend the quiet drive time with your sister, in any case. And no, your life will never be the same, there will always be the gaping hole there. Time does not heal all wounds.

    But I think flowers DO heal wounds and I love that the nursery opened for you to buy the rose bushes, such a kind gesture. My mother loved roses too.

    Thanks for the photo of the spring violets. They are my favorite and I miss them. Sending you loads of healing vibes xoxoxo

  3. again lots more beauty found here
    xoxo Susan, Missy & les Gang

  4. So pleased that you are home dear chickory amongst all that brings you happiness and you will never be quite the same, just a little different than before but your life still goes on and you should make the most of each day, that is what your Mom would want for you.
    Nice that you could spend some time with your sister and that you were able to buy the roses to plant in rememberance of your dear Mom.
    I am looking at these beautiful images you have posted here, the trilium and the violets, there is still beauty in your world and there will always be love and wonderful memories.
    Love from your 'golden girl'.
    Dianne. xoxoxo ♡

  5. I told someone that I was one person the day before my Mother died and a different one the next day. It's a loss that's hard to articulate and it never leaves. You just get used to it. But it takes time.

    Maybe you should leave the trees until Fall and just enjoy Spring and Summer in your sanctuary. Rest your spirit, grow your vegetables and plants.

    I'm glad you had a road trip back from Florida with family. To think of you flying back would have been horrible.

    And I love that you bought rose bushes. For ATL or BR?

    So glad to see you back. You've been missed. xoxo

  6. I keep telling myself to take the countrified route on trips to the ATL.

    But I keep doing 75. And by the 12th (oriental "massage") billboard in Jorja, my spirits are low.

    Is everyone really really TENSE in Jorja? Seems there are "massage" places at every darned exit.

  7. So glad you are returned to your place of solace. Peace be with you.

  8. I love your writing and how you describe it. This is how I felt when my brother passed away. The world was never the same afterwards. And it takes works to keep the family ties laced up ... so am glad you got to do a road trip with your sister. I believe the truth of those who feel that a death either binds a family together or tears it apart. I pray for binding for you, dear Chickie.

  9. I have to admit that I was touched by your description of the grave side ceremony. I did that almost 4 years ago with my mom. Although here they pre-dig the grave before the family arrives and dress it all up with astro turf and flowers (yeah, I know, right). And they wait for everyone to leave before lowering the casket - unless you really want to see that - which I did not.

    The cemetary is only about 10 miles away and I go there quite often for a number of reasons. Mostly it's like my fortress of solitude. Usually there may be one or two other cars there. This past Sunday (Palm Sunday I realized too late) it was a real mob scene. I'll wait until after Easter to go again (but not on Mother's Day).

    As time goes by you'll be amazed at the little things you remember when you stop to think about mom.

  10. I'm happy to hear you're back at Chickory. It seem a good place to be, both in happiness and in sadness.

  11. It’s good to have you back, dear Chickie. You have been much missed and much thought of. Glad you had a quiet road trip back with your sis, and that the nursery opened specially for you to partake of your mother’s favorite roses. May Spring in your corner of the world bring you some comfort. It sounds like it already has.

  12. A touching, honest post. My father left this reality three years ago. I am still processing it emotionally, spiritually, the whole bit. It is a new life, in a way... but I really feel that they are still with us...
    Be well. Lovely photos.

  13. xl: i know. I had to see everything and really look at it. my sister commented it was like when i watched the hawk eat Red, my chicken. I had to. and i understand the peace you mean. absoluteness. finality. it has its virtues.

    la diva: you sweet darling. i can sense that hole for you through those words. i know the truth of them. thank you for that lovely botanical stroll. i did see it while in florida but just for the life of me couldnt type. i did so appreciate it.

    susan: so thankful for your email today. will reply tomorrow. love to all the creatures -and you

    diane: there is no place like home as DOrothy knew and the good witch did all along. are love is strong on the simple familiar things attached to place. thank you - you are golden. in heart and spirit and in your affection for the blooms of that hue. xo

  14. boxer: i dont know how i am different exactly. i cant tolerate trivial suddenly. am quieter. i hope more kind.
    the roses are for here! one i hope to grow beside the studio and one to go out in the big garden. maybe. I missed everybody but i had to just be still a while. xo

    troll: 1-75 in south georgia is a visual blight of epic proportions. soul less, banal, redundant - hideous. i have avoided it for years. i usually take the golden isles parkway east of it but my last two trips ive gone west. we had intended to avoid jorja 75 but not below Ocala so it was many extra hours. way harsh.

    fishy: thank you. i think i have peace but sorrow creeps up and smacks me hard now and then.

    pam: thank you. i hope so too. so far so good...i adore my siblings. i really do. I wish i saw more of my brother but it is hard -neither one of us can leave because of all our animals so visits are nearly impossible. thanks for your prayers. xo

    buzz: thank you for this thoughtful comment! i think usually they do pre dig i forget why it happened this way -maybe the rain? i rather appreciated the fact it wasnt gussied up to disguise that it was in fact a deep hole that my mother would disappear into forever. It makes me love you that you go to your moms grave to be in solitude. you are so good. like a boy scout. ;-)

  15. moi: it is. I ve been very busy in the garden. I want it to be neat as a pin. my mom would like that.

    eggy: bless you. your little sprouts coming off your big purple body makes me smile. Im always happy to see you and very happy to be "back".

    publius: how are you friend? and the boy? thanks for stopping by. you know, the night my mom died before i knew she was dead an owl hooted in an odd pattern not like what i was used to. I am convinced that was she.

  16. My heart truly goes out to you. I lost my daddy ten years ago and I still feel the pain as acutely as I did back then to this very day. *hugs*

  17. "I was exalted like a cedar in Lebanon, and as a cypress tree upon the mountains of a rose plant in Jericho...Hearken unto me, ye holy children, and bud forth as a rose growing by the brook of the field...All the works of the Lord are exceeding good, and whatsoever he commandeth shall be accomplished in due season. ..."


  18. jenner: thank you! I will take those hugs. I understand what you say will be true - it will always hurt. I love your dog - but i miss that old avatar with her paw up. Its the cutest picture ever.

    anon: yes. its beautiful and it was the first reading at my moms funeral mass. thanks for putting the sentence in context/

  19. I haven't eaten yet, so fried fish and hushpuppies sounds good to me too.

    Comfort in food, comfort in beauty, comfort in a sister's company. Sometimes indulgence in the beauty of all things great and small helps put grief in another context. It never goes away, of course. But it can dull the pain of heartbreak long enough to endure the process. And you're certainly entitled to whatever kicks life affords you.

  20. The world is never the same. A part of your history has broken off and set sail. I am sorry, Ande. Lots of love to you. I hope you get to dig in the dirt and lose yourself in some of those 'good works'. Be extra good to yourself, and take care. xoxo Pam

  21. My mother died a few years ago. I try not to keep track exactly; I'd rather just say that it was in spring; the apple tree was blossoming that day... and she was dying. Very surreal. You'll find your mother still with you when you need her; things she said will pop into your mind; just when you need them. Trust me on this. And take heart in the resurrection story. So glad you're back. Spring blessings to you...

  22. My heart swells- it pushes tears up and out from deep places...knowing what is yet to come for me- you allow me to grieve a little now, alongside you- and to learn, and to see beauty, even in death.
    You are dear to me.


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