Posted by: jeannineatkins | May 16, 2014

Rain Falls on the Lilacs

For Alice, my Mother-in-Law

July 3, 1925 – May 16, 2014


The call comes in early morning, as it had last year

with her husband. This time we’re more prepared.

Alice’s last clothes are ready. On the edge of the garage,

floor swept, tools sorted and bagged, her children

had discussed songs, pictures, and flowers for the funeral.


For a few hours, there’s not much to do, like yesterday,

when I brought my old volume of Emily Dickinson

to her bedside. We didn’t understand much,

except there are a lot of poems about death.

Alice’s Bible was gone from the table,

but her daughter had left a hymnal, so I read

from call-to-worships in the back.

Good King James words with lots of vowels:

Oh, thou, all mighty. We liked that.

I skipped the threats, and murmured, over

and over, All will be well, and it will.




  1. Jeannine, I’m so sorry. You guys have really been hit hard lately. Sending love and hopes for ease and peace for everybody.

    • Thank you for your kindness and understanding, Becky.

  2. The poem and the lilacs are beautiful, but I’m so sorry, Jeannine. Sending lots of love to you and Peter and all the family.

  3. Love and prayers and hugs to all of you. Deepest condolences. Your sad, beautiful words are so telling.

    • I’m sorry you’re living through such moments, too, Jama. I was moved by your beautiful tribute to your beautiful mom..

  4. Dear Jeannine, you and your family are so in my heart today. How beautiful for you to find that place of all will be well now through your grief and sorrow. It is right in the heart of love where you hold each other so dear, now and always. Much love to you. ❤ Lorraine

    • Thank you for your ever-loving, always-thoughtful words, Lorraine. For eight days Alice has been in a state in which we didn’t know if she could hear us, so all our “conversations” have been a sort of talking to ourselves. I did bring in some children’s poetry in case she heard some sound-echoes. And maybe Julian of Norwich’s “all will be well” was what I needed to hear or take in. xo

  5. Hugs, Jeannine. I’m so sorry.

    Lilacs are fitting as symbols of life after death, if I’m remembering my Walt Whitman correctly.

    • Oh lovely, Whitman, and lovely you. Thank you for the hugs and the connection.

  6. I still remember that sweet photo of your father- and mother-in-law holding hands, taken from the back. And now they are together again. I think death in the springtime is especially hard, that surge of life and growth. The poem is so lovely . . . and Alice knows.

    • Thank you, Candice. I’m actually finding consolation in the spring. Sometimes nature can seem to be sort of mocking, but this has been a hard year for Alice, missing the man she spent 65 years with, so while a loss to all of us, it doesn’t feel entirely shocking but sort of inevitable. She felt sort of done even with lilacs and lilies of the valley, but I am not.

  7. Lovely, Jeannine. Easing the passage.

  8. Beautiful.

    Many hugs to you and to Peter and to the rest of the family.

  9. A beautiful and loving way to accept what is and to bid goodbye.

  10. Love to you and Peter, sweet friend. What a treasure this poem is. Keeping you close to my heart as you journey through. xo

    • I appreciate all of your warm thoughts. xo

  11. So sorry to hear the sad news! Hugs to you all! I miss you!

    • Thank you, Joy. I miss you, too. Sad to lose those from that generation.

  12. Such a lovely poem. I am so sorry for your loss. Your poem in its simplicity really captured the moment and its sacredness.

    • That’s a lovely thing to say, Susan — thank you.

  13. It’s the tenderness of your observations that make your poetry unique–at least, that’s one of the consistent features that I am enjoying. Lines like “We didn’t understand much”–which pertains both to Emily Dickinson’s poems, and to death itself. Also “I skipped the threats.” Your empathy is so articulate. And moving.

  14. I’ve been away and just saw this Jeannine. Words for your mother-in-law, and then for all of you are just right. I’m sorry for your and your husband’s loss.

  15. Oh Jeannine, I am just now reading this, tears falling with the rain. I’m so sorry for this, another significant loss for you, Peter, and Emily. But like you, I believe in the lingering scent of lilacs, and the lilt of words that end in vowels. And I share with you an abiding faith that despite –oftentimes accompanying–the rain, all will be well. Many hugs to all of you, and positive thoughts being sent your way. xoxo

  16. Jeannine, friends here have said so much in lovely ways, with so much love. Your poem is perfect. I’ll just say you and your family are close in my heart. I’m so sorry.

  17. So sorry to hear this, Jeannine.

  18. Sorry to have been out of touch this month, Jeannine – continued thoughts and prayers for your family. A strong, lovely poem.

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