Just Tulips

Dedicated to: My Mom

Last week in my chaplaincy internship, we were asked to select a photo from a spread on the table, and write a story. Afterward, we each shared with the group and discussed how the story reflects our theology and style of chaplaincy. Here is my photo, here is my story:

My Mother often brought tulips home from the market. My favorites were the bright red ones with the touches of yellow. Tulips were one of the first signs of Spring in Seattle; after the daffodils and crocuses lost their petals, the tulips would bud and begin to bloom.

The vibrant hues of reds, yellows, oranges, would bring warmth to our otherwise green, mossy yard. Years ago, the tulips were planted near the base of our three large poplar trees so as to keep them safe from the blades of the lawn mower. Occasionally, one would be knocked down by a soccer ball and brought inside to live out its days in a vase on a window sill. Otherwise, those tulips in the yard would open and close with the rhythm of the sun, until they dropped their petals and returned to the soil. Year after year, they would return, evoking the joy of spring.

The bouquets of tulips my mother bought were always simple: just tulips. She would trim their stems carefully under running water, and place them in a clear vase, placed in the middle of our modest dining room table. Every few days, she would change the water, keeping it fresh, and occasionally re-trim the ends to help extend their lives.

But eventually, as all life does, the tulips would begin to show signs of decay. The bottoms of the stems would fray and yellow slightly. The edges of the petals would wrinkle and darken. Some of the tulips would splay fully open, the petals naturally giving way to gravity, dropping one by one.

We would keep the tulips on the table much longer than most people would. “I like to see the whole process,” my mom would say. After the water had grayed, no longer being absorbed by the plants, but now, instead, becoming infused by decomposing plant matter, the tulips and their water would be released onto the compost pile in the back yard.

To this day, every spring I enjoy the life cycle of tulips – evoking memories of my mother: her care, her simplicity, her allowing nature. Through her, I learned to look deeper into life, beauty, and the impermanence of all things.


~Jessica McKimmie