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  • Rena Shapiro

Memorial in Spring

April flies in each year with a cape of marbled pink and white on its shoulders. The outstretched limbs of magnolia and cherry blossom trees haven't once failed to wave me off with their vibrant, unforgettable blush at each corner I round on my neighborhood walks. This year, however, is different.

She isn't here to gaze with me, to drag our feet and paws through the petal cloak that coats the ground. She isn't here to smell the stop sign on the same corner the majestic queen bearing the large, thick flowers, resembling cupped hands and lanterns, inhabits; she does not round this road, nor any road. Yet I still walk. And I feel her in every streak of yellow on the tips of the fallen petals. She is here, she is all I see, and she is all I ever will see.

We aspired to honor her in the place she loved most. Rolling in the unkempt grass of our yard while my mother planted daffodils to bloom next, she had claimed this natural patch. It is hers and I cannot do but thank her with my head bowed in silence. So we dig with resolve. We are making a home for her memory and for our love.

The small tree -- no, not even; bush -- we bought with a mere three buds fighting to flourish sits in waiting on the tile patio. Our work is holistic. To ensure the rise of this new life we first displace a foot of sand and lay down compost resulted of our family's own consumption. We mix it with the good soil, the bagged soil that we must drag across the yard to give one last shove and allow it to spill over into the hole with a heave. We take the young queen from her swaddle of a plastic pot and nestle her into her throne. We cover her with more life, more earth. That from which we all originated. It's humbling.

She considers as we watch, apprehensive but hopeful. She finally accepts her place with a nod as we offer her a shower of water. We sigh with relief and smile.

I walk to the pond to find shells. I carry them to the haven, where the young beauty awaits. I whisper my regrets and hopes as song and lyric into the shells, placing four at her feet. They seal in the legacy and bless the new beginning. My partner in welcoming each afternoon has not left me. She is in the soil I have mixed with my hands and the sunlight that touches it. I see the glint of her opalescent hair in every light. The magnolia tree in a ring of shells is touched by the same light she once was. She sees the corner the previous she saw, and holds it as she did, as the other queen we once greeted together continues to do today.

And for the future, when I too have found new roots, I know that the petals of our arboreal princess will extend into the caress of the sun and sink to the ground in that same light, year after year, protective. Knowing our story. Knowing that the blush of spring is life anew for all who are lucky enough to witness it, and continuing to give.

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