Stealing Lilacs

By on May 7, 2015
Stealing lilacs

I was four the first time it happened. “Mommy why are we stealing these lilacs. Do they belong to us?” The snap of the branches and the sweet aroma of those vintage purple lilacs put such a radiant smile on my mother’s face that I must have been mistaken. My quiet and tender mother would never do anything wrong. As I clung to her hand I had a bounce in my step and felt secure as we headed back to our compact bungalow nestled in a small village in Germany.

World War Two had left bomb shelters, broken dreams and poverty throughout Germany. Beauty and culture were beginning to emerge from all the rubble, but we still were still poor. We had no garden or flowerbeds to call our own, but there were misplaced lilac bushes and lonely fruit trees scattered throughout the countryside.

My gentle mother was confined to the bareness and poverty after a devastating war, and I knew she longed for more. My mother craved beauty. Whenever we walked through the lush green fields and found tiny daisies, buttercups or lilacs, both of us would fill our arms with the freshness and colors of God’s creation. It was one of the few things that brought a smile to my mother’s face.

When we moved to Canada and had our own vegetable garden and flowerbeds, our house was always filled with tulips, asters, dahlias and any flowers that survived the harsh winters and cooler summers of Prince George, British Columbia, Canada. Often I would see my mother heading outdoors with a pair of scissors to find beauty to refresh her spirit.

God gave my mother a spirit that was filled with love and beauty and she needed to express it in her own way. Our clothes were always freshly ironed and she polished the floors or arranged socks and underwear in our drawers so exquisitely that pictures of her creativity should have been displayed in household magazines. With every meal, we had an ironed tablecloth, and china and cutlery were arranged as though we were royalty. Somewhere in the house, there was always the aroma of a flower or the smell of freshly baked bread. She found it difficult to say, “I love you” but every day she reflected her love by creating images and fragrances that let us know we were the most important people in her life.

Over the years I understood her quiet quest for peace and beauty. Mom grew up in an era where she experienced the devastation of World War Two. She would tell us stories of fleeing to Germany by horse and buggy in the middle of a crushing cold winter. I don’t believe she ever recovered from seeing dead people discarded at the side of the road, and the sound of screaming hungry babies. I firmly believe that in her heart she needed to find and experience beauty to erase the horrifying images that war hurled at her.

Right now it is springtime here in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, and the earth is awakening with Saskatoon berry blossoms, forsythia bushes, and daffodils. Just two weeks ago I walked through the vineyards with my husband and I spotted a lilac bush with branches that had crept outside of its normal enclosure. Without hesitation, I snapped off a few branches, carried them home and put them into a vase to watch them burst open in all their splendor.

As I look at the vase, my mind goes back to when I was a little girl and I walked with my mother through the villages in Germany. Looking back I understand her craving for beauty. Until my loving, gentle mother took her last breath on November 25, 2013, she taught me how important it is to display God’s beauty in our homes and through our actions with the people we love. My mother taught me well.

By Heidi McLaughlin

 

About Heidi McLaughlin

Heidi McLaughlin lives in the beautiful vineyards of the Okanagan Valley in Kelowna, British Columbia. She is married to Pastor Jack and they have a wonderful, eclectic blended family of 5 children and 9 grandchildren. When she is not working, she loves to curl up with a great book; or golf and laugh with her husband, family and special friends. You can reach her at: www.heartconnection.ca

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Stealing Lilacs