Seven inches of "spring" fell yesterday. They said it would rain mostly, but we were blanketed with snow.

Although I am eager to get on with the season of rebirth and a garden full of flowers, I found the coating of snow to be refreshing.

I often find more beauty in a portrait of black-and-white contrast than I do in a bouquet of flowers. Looking at thousands of branches cutting through the pure white snow reminds me that life is not always black and white. The answers are often found in shades of gray.

It was a heavy, wet snowfall that found its place perfectly balanced on the tiniest branches, clothes lines and wire fences. Because the wind was absent from the storm, snowflakes stayed right where they landed.

My last look out the window before bed left me breathless.

It wasn't until morning that I discovered that the picture-perfect snowfall had left behind destruction.

We have an enormous lilac bush in our yard. The approaching spring reminded me that I could expect the very best of blooms. Last year we opened the windows in our small house so that the lilac scent found its way into every crevice. I wished that I could capture it for those long winter days that smell of dampness and bitter cold air.

As I stood on my deck this morning, I could immediately sense that something was wrong. The landscape had changed. The view from where we spent many happy spring days was different.

Two large branches of the lilac bush had snapped off from the weight of the snow. Examining the break closely, I could see that the old branches had been hollowed by disease.

I hurried to shake the rest of the snow loose from the remaining limbs. Then, one by one I dragged the fallen branches across the yard.

I was heartbroken.

Although the limbs were hollow, the tips of every single branch held tiny blooms. I have no way of guessing how old the plant is, but I thought about how many blooms came from those two single branches for so many years.

The blooms remain there now in anticipation of becoming all they were created to be, and yet they will wither now in place.

For the fifteen years we have been here, they never once failed to bring me joy in spring.

Now, as I look out my window, I see them lying hopelessly dying. Small birds still find them useful as they perch there momentarily on their way to our nearby feeders.

I know that later, after the snow melts, I will drag the branches up behind our property. As if a part of a predetermined cycle of life, they will become brittle and fall to the ground returning in a different form to the earth from which they sprang.

In the past month I lost two friends. Old branches of my tree of life. Violet was 90 years old. Her sparkle, wit, and wisdom added to my days in immeasurable ways. She often left messages on my phone which, by some miracle, were just what I needed to hear that day.

"Howdy! This is Violet, Secular Franciscan. My word today is 'Hurry slowly!'" her message said one day.

I often hurried through life all too fast. Perhaps she was the reason why I learned to take time to stop and smell the lilacs.

My other friend Margaret and I became estranged several years ago. Her role in my life was to chastise me. She never gave up trying to rekindle our friendship. Sadly, I never responded and felt the pain of that regret just last week when I saw her obituary. It was too late.

I saw the relationship immediately between the two fallen branches of the lilac and the loss of two friends. Nature doesn't just reflect life; it serves as an example of the way we should live it.

Live your life in such a way that when you die, all those who found value in who you were would immediately notice the empty spot where you once stood. Do it in such a way that, like the scent of the lilacs in spring, you will never be forgotten.

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