Longwood Revisited

waterlilyYesterday was a sad anniversary. It was the day my mother died, April 30.

I felt like driving.

And I did, for hours.

I knew where I’d end up, at my hometown, at her gravesite.

It has been 36 years, but there are still tears. I guess there always will be.

There was much left unsaid between us, and I was her favorite, or at least that is what I was led to believe.

The picture shown was taken at Longwood Gardens on one of the last days I saw her alive.

Our family’s obsession with all things floral goes back a very long way. Longwood Gardens, a 1000 acre masterpiece in Kennett Square, PA, was a favorite destination. ***

Longwood 1954

Van, Mom, Sis.

I have black and white photos of one of my earliest visits there at age 2.

One year after I created this post, my 200th at the time, I found the image, and thought I’d share it here.

I have no real memory of that time, but I came to understand it was an idyllic age for our young family.

We would go often, in all seasons. It was a Sunday drive that wandered through nameless back roads that were so familiar.

Decades later, we were to return.

My mother was dying. Inoperable bladder cancer. I knew where I wanted to take her.

I was in from Michigan for one of many visits. This one felt different.

She was tired and weak, and didn’t like going out. I convinced her. We needed to go to Longwood, just the two of us.

I pushed her around the park that day in a wheelchair. She made me promise not to take any pictures of her. I complied. Sort of.

She rested on a bench in the conservatory, very near the spot in the black and white photo. I got as far away as I could, and took a shot. She never knew. It’s the last picture of her that I have. I will keep it respectfully private.

The water lily photo, that I framed after her death, is the same image on my WordPress banner.

It is special to me, and I am proud to share it here.

***Note: There are amazing color photos of Longwood Gardens, to be found here:


This entry was posted in Childhood, Family, Inspiration, Photography, Travel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

131 Responses to Longwood Revisited

  1. olganm says:

    A very touching post. Thanks for sharing.

  2. George says:

    Beautiful post. It actually read like poetry. Think you’ll ever go back again?

    • What a lovely compliment, George. I have gone back since. A few years ago, I planned a trip there with my daughter, who was in a friend’s wedding nearby. It’s always heart-tugging. ❤️

  3. ninamishkin says:

    Beautiful 200th post, Van.

  4. Amy says:

    That is such a beautiful post and very poignant. It is the little things that warm our hearts and what a beautiful way to honor your mom’s memory.

  5. A touching post full of tenderness. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Silver Threading says:

    Van, such a lovely memory of your mother. It touched my heart. My husband had stage 4 bladder cancer and we able to get him a radical surgery that saved his life. I send you hugs today. Your mom would have loved your blog. ❤

    • So sweet of you to say, Colleen. This was the late 1970’s and it had metastasized beyond hope at the time. She subjected herself to many experimental treatments, which gave her more time, and may have benefited others down the road. ❤️

  7. C.E.Robinson says:

    Van, congratulations on your 200th post, and it’s a beautiful one! Remembering your Mom in the peaceful Longwood surroundings must be heart-warming. Love the water lily image! Hugs! Christine

  8. A beautiful and touching post.

  9. You write beautifully on such a moving subject. I think the connection between your mother’s gradually deteriorating health and the fragile bloom of the vital flower is profoundly moving. I have yet to visit Longwood Gardens but when I do finally go I shall think of you.

    • It is so worth the trip, Laura, I’d recommend Spring or Fall given the choice. The heat can be brutal..and there’s a lot of outside walking. With children, Christmas displays are amazing. Thanks for noticing the flower connection. ❤️

  10. Nurse Kelly says:

    That photo and your post here are just beautiful. That’s wonderful that you could go there with her and get that special photo. And congrats on 200 posts! Love reading your words 🙂

  11. Touched by your story.

  12. dyane says:

    I echo all the other comments, which were inspiring to read – this is a truly beautiful and loving post, and I enjoyed every word as well as the gorgeous water lily photo!

    • Thanks for your kind words, Dyane. Did you know I heard from your mother? She responded to the link I sent about my grandmother. Sweet connection. 💕

      • dyane says:

        Wow! That is so cool! She has never reached out that way before via the blog and she absolutely raved about your post. Thanks for bringing her some happiness; I’l be sure to read it myself this weekend. 🙂 XO

      • How sweet is that ? I’m honored to have evoked something in her. Please extend her my heartfelt thanks. ❤️

  13. I recognized the lily immediately Van! I really, really respect that you’re keeping the picture of your mom private even though I really, really wish I could see it. What a tender memory – thanks for sharing it. ❤
    Diana xo

  14. A very touching and heart warming post, Van. Memories like this are so wonderful when they are shared. Thank you for sharing the memory of your mum and the special place you two went and visited that day.

  15. So beautiful. Wonderful memory of your mother, may she rest in peace. I visited Longwood as a young teenager. Love flowers.

  16. Precious. So glad to share in your memories, Van. You took me on my own rabbit trail back to my only visit to Longwood over 20 yrs ago.


  17. 200 posts! Sweet piece. I would have loved taking my mom to Longwood Gardens. Nice way to remember our moms. I’ll think of you next time I go.

  18. Angie Mc says:

    Van, you have a beautiful way of weaving together the past with the present. I will never look at your banner quite the same way ❤ And congratulations on 200 posts. Well earned!

  19. LaVagabonde says:

    200 posts…wow, Van. You sure made this one count. I can picture in my mind your last photo of your mother. Even more beautiful and precious than this water lily.
    (Sorry I commented so late. I’ve been away from internet for the past few days…)

  20. Ah, Van. I’m so glad you were able to take your mother on that one last visit and managed to also take a photo of her that you can keep with you always.

    The water lily photo makes perfect header, and is a wonderful memorial to your mother. Thanks for sending me the link, I somehow managed to miss this post before.

  21. This is a lovely and touching post! Thanks so much for sharing this with us! xx

  22. please participate in my proj for aidan, please

  23. Thank you for sharing. Such a lovely tribute to your mom.

  24. It takes a lot of courage and love and tenderness to be able to open up an share your precious feelings and memories with the rest of the world.
    I wish I could say the tears will go away, they might not.
    Over the years I found grief is not a stage, and it doesn’t go away.
    Much love to you.

  25. foguth says:

    My condolences, it is never easy to lose a loved one, which is why I try to do things with them and take photos… one never know when fate will intervene.

  26. Erika Kind says:

    Thank you for sharing these intimate memories with us, Van! You must have been very young and so must your mom have been. It is never easy to say goodbye to a loved one…. even harder perhaps under those circumstances. My sympathy, Van! 💖

  27. A beautiful and touching post. Lovely tribute to your mom. Much love. 💕

  28. A tender post. I think you look like her

  29. wgr56 says:

    Very touching, and I understand completely. April 30 for you, April 26 for me.

  30. Beautiful post, beautiful memories xxx

  31. What a heart melting post Van. I can imagine the compelling desire to go there. I doubt the number of years takes away the special place in our hearts for our loved ones, sometimes, I ache badly to see my dad. It will be 3 years this May that he left us.

  32. Laura says:

    This is a lovely post, Van, and I’m so sorry for your loss. I’m finding the first six months after my mom’s passing to be oddly…roller coaster-like. I just never know when something will hit me the wrong way, so it makes perfect sense that even 30+ years won’t erase the sadness, maybe just shift it a little. Thinking of you…

    • We all had a difficult relationship with her, Laura. I wish I had her back, just to tell her I understand her a bit more now, especially after having children of my own. Thanks for your comment. I get the roller coaster ride. Hugs to you as well. 💘

  33. joey says:

    Beautiful! 🙂

  34. Nurse Kelly says:

    I remembered this post as soon as I started reading it. Wasn’t sure until I saw the comment I made. Beautifully written and such a touching tribute to your mom. I enjoyed it all over again. ❤

  35. jazzytower says:

    Beautifully written Van. I have learned from my mom that that kind of loss and that feeling of loss never goes away. Her mom passed when she was 13 years old. She is now 84 and she speaks of it like it just happened. A nice rememberance of your mom.

  36. Beautiful post. This is mind blowing.
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  37. lisakunk says:

    A very lovely tribute to your mother. I visited Longwood Gardens years ago with my parents and treasure those photos, also.

  38. Prior-01 says:

    oh how special this is – and sending you a hug – in honor of your mom. and I like learning little tidbits about bloggers – like to see how special the water lily is and that you have this framed. side note, I just hung up some water lilies my son painted – well in grade school and it was a very informal Monet workshop he was at – but I found his painting and put it up – with some other art – to celebrate the pretty things in life a bit more.
    and your mom’s pretty spirit lives on in you….
    favorite or not!

  39. hobo hippie says:

    Sad about your mom Longwood gardens was a favorite of mine-love the cacti

  40. tric says:

    Anniversaries are hard no matter how long ago we lost our loved one. My dad is 29 years this October and I still miss him.
    Love the link between your post and Lily banner.

  41. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    As mother’s day approaches in the United States many will be reflecting on mother’s who are no longer with us. Mine would be 99 this year and so wanted to hang on for that telegram from the Queen. Here is Van with a wonderful post that brings back memories I am sure for all of us who still have a loving connection from beyond this earth we inhabit.

  42. A beautiful tribute to your mom. At my age (72) I can appreciate your sentiment. I still miss my mom and it’s been 43 years, but I want you to know that she knew how much you loved her. Moms know these things, but, we never like to play favorites.
    I looked at the photo’s of Longwood, I am sure she visits there often. Happy Mothers Day. :o)

    • Thank you, Patricia, and I think you are right. I have been back there, and often feel the spirit of her and my grandmother, who shared many visits there. 💕

  43. noelleg44 says:

    A truly beautiful post and tribute. I think of my mother practically every day and it’s also been some years since her death. Would love to talk to her…I used to go to the phone to call her and then would remember,

  44. TanGental says:

    I find it odd, now both parents are dead, that I can contextualise them and seemingly understand their idiosyncrasies and idiocies so much better than when they were alive and able to confound my expectations. It remains hard not to have the specific contacts any more, but their advice, given often in the form of my conscience still resonates. Of course I’d love them both back to be awkward and annoying again, rather than let my memory sanitize them. Such a lovely post Van and a bit of a tear jerker.

    • That’s about it…our memories sanitize them. I’d have loved a relationship without conflict, but does that even exist ? I think the grief may linger when things went unresolved. Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Geoff. 💔

  45. C.E.Robinson says:

    Van, heart-warming post! Remembering my own Mom this weekend too! My sister & I talk about her often! She was a good, traditional Mom! Happy Mother’s Day! 💛 Elizabeth

  46. This is a fantastic tribute to your mother. You’ve made a wonderful final memory you can keep in your pocket, just for you. Connection between a daughter and mother is sooo special. ❤ ❤ ❤
    My mom would have been 89 on April 30th.

  47. And you would honor that calendar date for a different reason. Sweet. Thank you, Tess. She would be 90 this year. 💖

  48. lbeth1950 says:

    Ambiguous relationships are so painful. We always think what might have been. This really touched me.

  49. Thank you for sharing such a touching post. The photo of you, your mom and sister is so sweet as is the memory of your mom’s last visit to the conservatory. Hugs ❤

  50. Raquel says:

    Wow, very moving. Please check out my blog: http://www.onlyafever.wordpress.com

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