Legacies and lilacs (Or, Thanks for that phone call. I needed that.)

I got the best phone call a couple of days ago.

Every year at around this time, I fill the passenger seat of my car with cloth bags – the big ones – and cram my Russell belt knife and large kitchen shears into the cup holders. I open up the sunroof and make sure I’m wearing sensible shoes. It’s lilac-hunting time. One bag for pink, one for purple, and one for my favourites, the white lilacs. The sunroof is perfect for climbing out of, or, as I found out this year, sending my 8-year old out of (these are important skills to pass on), to prune the back-alley bushes of which I’m so fond. It always feels a little bit stealthy. We whisper. Sometimes I’ve actually gone out because it’s dark and I’m less likely to be seen. (Sorry, neighbours.) It’s such an ephemeral time, lilac season. There is such a short window of opportunity to fill one’s house with this heavenly scent. For about two weeks, if it’s been a good hunting season, I fill every vase I own with lilacs and put some in every room. I have lilacs in both bedrooms, in the den, three vases in the living room, some on the dining room table. The first breath I inhale when I open my door is the best breath of the day. Lilacs are something that bring me pure, unadulterated joy.


There is one girl in town who offered up her lilac tree for me to relieve of its lovely white lilacs a few years ago, and I’ve been going every year since. This year she didn’t wait for me to ask her; she called. ‘Your lilacs are ready!’ she said. We did the usual back-forth-are-you-sure-no-really-come-we’re-allergic thing that we do every year, and I thanked her profusely for thinking of me. Her response made me think.

“Every time they bloom!”

How lovely! What a beautiful thing for me to know. There are so many other legacies one could leave. So many other things I will be remembered for when my days are done – some good, some not so much. But ohh. Every year, when the lilacs bloom, some people will think about me.

Another friend of mine commented on a question I had put out there for the universe – I wanted to know if I had missed the fiddleheads (I had.) and her response was “I was afraid you were going to miss the lilacs!” (She remembered too!)

And I realized, so was I. Last year at this time, when my friend from down south flew in to spend the weekend with me in between my chemo treatments, I remember clambering up a hill I often visit for the pinks and purples with her and filling my bags with fragrant flowers and being stopped in my tracks by that very thought. What if that were the last time I got to hunt for lilacs?

It was not. But the same thought occurs to me this year, and it brings with it a sense of urgency. Smell all the flowers. Gather them in and bury your face in them. Don’t miss any of it. See all the beauty. Feel it all, completely, and with great joy.

I know this is not a new concept. But it is the first time that the whole ‘Stop to smell the roses’ has really, really made sense to me. Smell the roses. Hunt the lilacs. They are here for such a short time.




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