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Who we lost Ky. - Yellow roses: story about LaVern Terry

Who We Lost



WUKY is collaborating with Martha Greenwald, creator and curator of 'Who We Lost KY' a writing project where friends and families who have lost loved ones to the pandemic pay tribute and in some cases, say their final goodbyes. This week, in honor of Mother's Day, we hear from Shane Terry of Letcher County, who wrote and recorded this touching tribute to his mother, LaVern Terry. Special thanks to WMMT Radio in Whitesburg, Kentucky.

A few years ago, on 9/11, which is, ironically, my birthday, I woke up at college by a phone call from my family. My parents’ home, a single-wide trailer that they’d built on over time, was engulfed in flames. The next day, when I made my way back to them, there was little remaining but burnt pieces of tin that used to be a roof. My mom, who had been up all night, was crying, asking “Why, why?”

It was hard not to notice that the fire had even taken the yard and garden along with my mom’s rose bushes that she’d tended to for years. She loved them. She was always trying to make things beautiful, and see the bright side even when it seemed impractical to do so, and flowers were a part of that.

My mother’s favorite song was “Roses Will Bloom Again.” When I remember, I can hear her singing the lyrics “Roses will bloom again, just wait and see”. Often, she’d sing this as a reminder that things will get better, and it had meaning because despite the fact that we didn’t grow up with a lot of money, she always made sure that we had a stable home where we felt supported and loved.

Recently, I was digging through my archive of old video footage and I found something that surprised me. It was video of my mother, a year before she died, showing me the rose bush at the end of the driveway, the one my sister and I had bought to replace the bushes that had burned up.

The new bush that we’d planted was pink or red – I can’t remember exactly. But oddly enough, when the bush began to flower, the roses were yellow. The color of hope and light and happiness. My mom was amazed. That’s what she’s showing us in the video, her joy that they’d transformed themselves. It seemed to be a sign at the time that things would get better — a little miracle that happened to us after losing so much.

This year we’ve had a cold spring and the roses haven’t bloomed yet on the bush at the end of the driveway. We’ve developed a new tradition of clipping a rose and bringing it to lay atop my mother’s grave. There won’t yet be a fresh yellow bloom to bring for this Mother’s Day, but that’s ok. We’ll return in a month or so, because like the song says, “Roses will bloom again, just wait and see.”

My mother was right about that, and so many other things. That’s how I like to remember her: tending to the garden, singing those lyrics, and smiling. I love you, Mom.