The Smell of Lilacs

close photo of purple petaled flower during daytime

Photo by Valeria Boltneva on

My Mother died in May when I was very young. It was especially hard on my Father because he had three young children to raise. He was grieving but had to keep going, work and take care of us. At different times when he was especially sad, he would smell Lilacs. It was God’s way of telling my Father that He held him in the palm of his hand. Because of my Father’s experience, Lilacs have always held a special place in my heart. When I see them and smell them, I am reminded that God knows my heart, loves me and is there with me in any pain or sorrow I am experiencing.

For those who don’t have a living Mother today, who may have lost a loved one recently, know that God has you in the palm of his hand…that He cares for you and that He is with you. When you see and smell the Lilacs, look to Him and rest in His love for you.

Thinking of you with love today…Valerie.

“The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” Psalm 34:18

The Hidden Cost of War

We have just celebrated Veterans Day where we honor those who have served their country in the military. We also honor those who given their lives in service for our country. We look at the cemeteries and we see the headstones and the flags and we remember the ultimate sacrifice they gave for us. It is a very sobering reality when we think about it.

cemetery-269663_640photo by jmp200962  Courtesy of Pixabay

There is another cost of war, one we don’t really think about except for on days like Veterans Day.  That cost is usually hidden from the majority of us unless we know someone personally who has lost a loved one in the line of duty for our country. That is the cost that the families of those veterans pay. The mothers, fathers, wives, children, brothers and sisters of those fallen will pay that price for the rest of their lives. 

The person who is lost will not be around the family table for dinner and their place will be empty for all to see and feel. Every day the families of those who are gone must get up and continue about their lives. They will carry the memory of that loved one in their hearts and they will try to make up for the loss of that person to their children and grandchildren.

Not only do we owe a debt of gratitude to those who gave their lives in service for our country, we owe a debt of gratitude to their families who also will be enduring the cost of that sacrifice for the remainder of their days.

Let us remember them also and keep them in our thoughts and prayers.

“Greater love hath no man than this, than a man lay down his life for his friends.”  John 15:13 (KJV)


A few months ago, Ann, one of my good friends passed away. I had known her for decades and she had been very close to me and my family. She lived in another state and I had called her a few months before and was made aware that her health was failing. When she passed, I was sad but accepted it and was not very emotional about it. My son and another friend called to ask me how I was doing with the news. I said, “I think I’m fine.”

low angle photo of linear leaf plant
Photo by Madison Inouye on


In the meantime, my husband and I bought a Ravenna Palm and placed it in a beautiful pot. We put it in the corner of the living room and it looked perfect there. I love my plants and I named the plant Penelope. A few days later, I was having trouble with my allergies. I looked up palm plants and it stated that most palms are female but the male palms give off allergens. It also said that most people who sell plants are not aware of this when ordering palms so you can get either one in a shop.

I called the place we bought the plant and they told me we could bring it back. We returned it and I asked the man if they were going to return it to the shelf. He said, “No, we will have to put it into the dumpster. We cannot restock it because it does not have the restocking sticker on it.” I looked at my husband and tears came to my eyes. I walked out to the car quickly and started sobbing. He looked at me and said, “Valerie, what is going on?” I replied that I didn’t want them to kill Palmy, my new generic name for the male palm.  I told him we could keep it on the back patio and in the garage in the winter. He agreed and like the dutiful husband he is, marched back into the store, repurchased the palm and brought it back to the car.

He then looked at me and said, “Valerie, what is really going on?” By that time I had calmed down and said, “I think I’m sad about Ann’s death.” He said, “Well I hope so, that is a pretty strong reaction for a plant we’ve only had for four days!” It was at that point that I realized that I was experiencing grief from my friend’s death, but I was not aware of it and had been unable to process it.

I was brought up in a home where we did not show a lot of emotion. Logic and reason ruled the day and little if any weight was given to an argument filled with emotion. From the time I was small, I learned to stuff my emotions and deal with whatever situation I encountered. When I did feel grief or some other sad emotion, it was hard for me to cry. As an adult, I have had difficulty crying, even when I have lost someone very dear to me. If I needed to cry, I would watch  a movie with a sad ending. It would enable me to cry a bit and release some of my pent up emotions.

After the incident with Penelope, I began to think about the ability to process emotions in a healthy way, especially grief. Depending on the culture and the home we are brought up in, we are either allowed or discouraged from showing our emotions. Whether we show them or not, they are still there inside of us. I believe it is much healthier to be able to express our emotions appropriately, rather than stuffing them and putting up a brave front. 

Since then, I have been trying to allow myself to express grief when I am alone. I have had a few breakthroughs and hope that in the future I will be able to be in touch with my emotions in a more positive way. After all, a person should not have to put on a sad movie in order to express the emotions that are pent up inside of them, should they?


Our National Corporate Grief

pexels-photo-54512.jpegAs citizens of America, we are all partakers in the grief we felt when we heard about the shootings in Las Vegas. We have a shared sense of grief whenever something like this happens in our country. The shared grief is part of what molds us and forms our national identity.

For those of us who grew up in the sixties, that shared grief included the deaths of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy. From the time we became cognizant of national events, we have shared in the tragedies that have affected this nation, including the Challenger incident, 911 and the various mass killings that have happened in the last two decades. It also includes the events that happen when natural disasters hit such as Andrew, Katrina, Harvey, Irma and Marie.

As a nation we have endured a lot of grief lately. Our people have suffered untold loss: physically, materially and emotionally since the beginning of September. It is a lot to take in when we see others suffering and we search for a way to help.

When a natural disaster hits, we can give and support those who have been affected by the disaster. However, when one of these random acts of violence happens there  is not much we can do for those affected when we don’t live close by. Those living near Las Vegas were able to donate blood, give hotel rooms and other basic necessities to those in need. For those of us who did not live close by, we could only pray.

We don’t want senseless acts of violence to affect us, but unfortunately they become part of our national corporate grief. Just mention the words: Sandy Hook, Fort Lauderdale San Bernardino or Orlando, and we feel a sense of sadness. We feel pain because of the innocent lives that were lost, even though most of us have no personal connection to them.

Whether we like it or not, we have to process  our national corporate grief. I believe it is easier to process than private grief because we do it together as a nation. We talk about it and we process our feelings publicly. Even though we are able to process our grief publicly, we are still not able to understand the event. There is no place in our minds where we can neatly tuck away senseless acts of violence.

Our brains were created to help process our emotions and give us a level of understanding about why things happen the way they do. When senseless violence happens, we search for an answer. Maybe there will be some clue to help us understand why someone would seek to hurt or kill others in such a way.

Unfortunately, many times there is no such answer. Often the shooter is killed and we are left wondering how a fellow human being could reach such depths of depravity. We are left unable to comprehend a reason and we cannot add any level of understanding to our grief.  It is difficult to process grief when there is no understanding,  but we must learn to do it if we are going to be able to process it in a healthy manner.