Sunday, January 11, 2009

Shades of Violet

Violets On Her Window Sill
by Sharlyn Guthrie

Pinching pennies, making do,
scrimping here, and saving, too;
Just necessities were bought.
Luxuries were rarely sought.
Mother chose the simple thrill
of violets on her window sill.

Picking spinach, podding peas,
Sewing patches for my knees,
Cutting noodles, kneading bread,
Braiding hair, keeping us fed—
Mother did all this and still
grew violets on her window sill.

Once, when I was nearly grown
Mother let me stay alone;
took a trip, left me in charge.
Wow! I learned her shoes were large.
Instructions seemed routine until
we reached the kitchen window sill.

“While I’m gone, water them, please.
Don’t get water on their leaves.
Fill the saucer, not the pot.
Too much, and their roots will rot.
Please be careful not to kill
the violets on my window sill.”

Cooking, cleaning, scrubbing floors,
doing laundry, locking doors,
kept me busy, ripened me,
taught responsibility.
And I honed the proper skill
for violets on the window sill.

As I grew I thought of ways
I would rather spend my days.
When a home and kids I got,
like my mother I was not.
I had no desire or will
for violets on my window sill.

Years and decades soon had passed.
Life was full and much too fast.
Then my mother -active, strong-
sensed something was very wrong.
I tended her while she was ill,
along with violets on her sill.

Soon, her final days were spent.
To her heavenly home she went.
Still, five purple blooms remained,
and a fondness I had gained;
so I’ve resolved I always will
grow violets on my window sill.

It’s funny when I think about it. Mother never liked the color purple –It reminded her of death—still, she always grew violets.

My mother, Bernice Ellen (Beeghly) Brammell, was born January 12, 1919. She would have turned ninety this year. She died, however, in September of her eightieth year. Considering that she had cancer, she didn’t suffer very long. She sewed five bridesmaid dresses for (my son) Tristan’s and Robin’s July 24th wedding. Two weeks later it was confirmed that she had liver cancer. Less than a month after that she died, surrounded by family in her own home.

“Grandma never really grew old, did she?” my son, Travis, remarked. It’s true, and that’s just the way she wanted it. Following major surgery a couple of years earlier, she and my dad briefly moved into a retirement facility, but Mother couldn’t stand living with all those “old people.”

As soon as her strength returned, Mother set out to find a condo, and bought one without consulting any of her daughters. I did intervene on one point…they had purchased a second floor condo with no elevator, and I insisted that they needed to be on the first floor. Thankfully, the builders agreed to the change, even though initial paperwork had already been signed. Once in the condo, one of the first things my mother bought was a stepladder, so she could do some wallpapering!

Even though their time in the condo was relatively short, I’m glad they enjoyed their last years together there, surrounded by a “younger set.” It may not have added years to their lives, but it did add life to their years. During that time they celebrated their 60th anniversary and mother’s 80th birthday.

Shortly before she died, Mother had asked to borrow my book by Hannah Hurnard, Hinds Feet in High Places~the beloved story of Much Afraid and her exciting journey to the High Places. Judging from the bookmark she left in place, she never finished. But today I turned back one page to see where she had stopped. I don’t know why I had never done this before, but although it took me ten years to do it, I’m glad I did. If she indeed stopped reading here, it was a fitting place to stop. I wonder how many times she pored over these words in her final days as she made her own exciting journey to the High Places:

Set me a seal upon my heart
Thou love more strong than death
That I may feel through every part
Thy burning, fiery breath.
And then like wax held in the flame,
May take the imprint of thy name.

Set me a seal upon thy arm,
Thou love that bursts the grave,
Thy coals of fire can never harm,
But only purge and save.
Thou jealous love, thou burning flame,
O burn out all unlike thy name.

The floods can never drown thy love,
Nor weaken thy desire,
The rains may deluge from above
But never quench thy fire.
Make soft my heart in thy strong flame,
To take the imprint of thy name.

(based on Song of Solomon 8:6)

Happy Birthday, Mother!


  1. Hugs, Sharlyn.
    Your poem and post are a lovely tribute to your dear mother. Thank you for sharing part of her beautiful soul.

  2. a beautiful tribute
    popped over from Godlinked
    nice to meet you and hope to visit often


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