My Mom Lives On

Send to Kindle

DSC02486In October of 2012, I took a trip up to Long Island to scatter my mother’s ashes in the places she loved and had spent most of her life.  She had died in 2007.  Unable to deal with the anger and rage she caused me during her last seven years of life, I tucked her ashes away on the top shelf of a dark closet. It took me until just a few months before that trip to understand what had happened between us and why. I found forgiveness for her in a journey of memory I took through our history together. I found out things I hadn’t known about my mom or me.

As I scattered the last of her ashes in places where she’d spent time as an adult and a child, I felt lighter and happier than I’d been in a long time.  My rage was gone and I was able to pick up the pieces of my life and put it back together.

A month or so after returning home from that “letting-go” trip, I began reorganizing my studio. I found a small tin tucked away in a corner and upon opening it I discovered another tiny plastic bag filled with her ashes.  I took those remains and placed them on the  ground around a tree peony that grows just outside my  studio door.  It had been transplanted a few years earlier and hadn’t adjusted well to its new location.  At the time I asked Mom to help that beautiful plant to grow strong and tall.

This is what she did!IMG_1109IMG_1112


  1. How beautiful, Joan. On so many levels:
    – your letting go
    – how your prayer connected your mother’s energy to your flourishing peony (it’s gorgeous!)
    – your fab, heartfelt prose
    – your sharing with us, your readers.

    I feel her presence and am happy to hear you’re healing too.

  2. Gail Livingston says:

    Hello, Joanie, I still follow you, just don’t often feel my words would add anything to your lovely thoughts. This is a particularly powerful image. My peonies are in full bloom right now — white and dark rose ones — but they are gone so fast. They are in bud, then quickly open, then are suddenly in full, full bloom before they start to drop their petals. A metaphor for life, I suppose. I have recently learned the art of Ho’oponopono (an ancient Hawaian healing ritual), and I have found a way not to forgive my mother, but to forgive myself for the meanness I often showed to her. I wish I had had ashes to scatter under my peonies, but what we have is a box in the ground. I remember when my brother and I were at the funeral home planning the burial — I accepted a coffin, but when they started talking about a steel vault to lock her body in, I ran crying from the room. I don’t know to this day what my brother decided. Be well.. With affection Gail

    • Gail,
      Thanks so much for your visit and leaving a comment. You never have to add to my thoughts here. Just a hello is fine.

      Yes, the peonies go quickly, just like the days flashing by. I never seem to get everything done in the given daylight hours. I fall asleep each night planning tomorrow and when I wake up life takes me in a different direction.

      I like your burial story. Making decisions when a loved one dies is one of the hardest things we ever have to do.

      Take care and hope to see you soon.

  3. Joan – I enjoyed reading your story of transition from rage to peace and reconciliation. Further, the amazing, vivid blooms — a nod and a wink from your mom!

  4. This is beautiful, Joan. New hopes arise out of the ashes of memory. That is such a powerful message which your upcoming memoir will share with others. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Joan … beautiful writing and beautiful sentiment … I love the metaphor implied in having your mother’s ashes nurture the peonies. I’m going to send you a story about how the death of my mother (of whom I was not fond) created a spark that is still with me a decade later.

  6. Wow. A giant lump in my throat. Powerful. Thank you, Joan.

  7. Joan Rough says:

    Dorothy, Thanks so much for your wonderful words. I so appreciate all of your support.