Friday, February 24, 2012


Walt Whitman wrote "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" in 1865.  It's considered to be an homage to Abraham Lincoln after his assassination.  The opening lines are about the reminders of spring, and the beauty and pain that the season holds.

WHEN lilacs last in the door-yard bloom’d,
And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night,
I mourn’d—and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring.
O ever-returning spring! trinity sure to me you bring;
Lilac blooming perennial, and drooping star in the west,         5
And thought of him I love

Whitman writes about lilacs and honoring a president.

And I write (far less eloquently, and with more all-caps and fewer exclamation points) about magnolia trees and missing my baby girl.

As I've mentioned before, late snows last year prevented our magnolia tree from blooming.  When we had a tree planted in Forest Park in memory of Eliza, it turned out by chance to be a saucer magnolia--the very same tree that is decked with pink blossoms each spring in our own front yard.  I'll always think of these as Eliza's trees, but I was incredibly touched to get an e-mail from a friend saying that she thinks of them that way, too.

She wrote in her e-mail:

I was walking with Mason yesterday and noticed this tree. The pink and white cherry blossoms always come out in time for Valentine’s day here in the bay area, which I think is nice. But none are as stunning as what I now know is a saucer magnolia.
Just thought you’d like to see that Eliza’s memory blooms in Berkeley, too.

And she included this picture.

I can think of no better gift for anyone who has lost a child, than to be reminded that her child's memory blooms in many places, that her baby is held in the heart of many people.

Whitman's poem tells us that every spring, lilacs and starlight remind him a great man whose death he mourns.  For the rest of my life, I'll think of Eliza every time I see a saucer magnolia tree with its springtime blooms.  And if those pink blossoms remind you, too, of our baby girl, then I thank you from the bottom of my heart for keeping her memory alive.  It means so much to us.

(And special thanks to Lindsey in Berkeley, for making me cry such happy tears.)


  1. So sweet!! I hope I don't miss out on all of the blooming this year... Our neighbor across the street has a beautiful saucer mag in their front yard that I always enjoy watching bloom. When you posted about this being Eliza's tree, I immediately thought of our neighbor's tree, so we have he in memory nearby too. Wish I could see it from my set-up in the bedroom but I will prob see it when I leave to go to doctors appts and stuff. I live it when ppl tell me they saw the sun behind the clouds or something nautical that made them think of Hayes.

  2. That is one of the nicest things I have heard someone do for someone else. Remembering your daughter for you. What a wonderful friend you have.

    I hope many more people see the blooms and think of your Eliza.

  3. Oh, this is so sweet! I'll be on the lookout for those trees here. Do they exist in DC?

    I've been feeling all metaphorically into spring lately. I'm trying to find small happiness in the pretty blossoms that are coming up around town.

  4. We *do* have lots of those in bloom here, and many in our neighborhood. I was just commenting on them tonight as we walked the dogs. And now, they hold an even more special thought as I will think of your sweet Eliza every time I see them. xoxox

  5. I love the symbolism of the tree not blooming last year... Here's hoping it does this year.

    I think of sweet Eliza all the time (as I'm sure you know).

  6. So beautiful! (Both the picture & the way it came to you.) : )