Remembering in Lilac Season

From our balcony we can enjoy looking down over a profusion of  blossoms in our neighbour’s yard and appreciate the sweet scent of lilacs.  It’s lilac season in British Columbia and for me that means it’s a time to remember.

A few years ago I was reminded of the death of a friend when members of a basketball team in Bathurst New Brunswick died in a van accident. Apparently 15 seater vans can tip easily when they contain 10 or more passengers. I know this reality all too well as a friend died in a similar accident when the 15 seater van she was riding in flipped and rolled off the shoulder of a country road in Fox Creek, Alberta.  She was born and died in lilac season. At her funeral, her mum gave me lilacs to remember her. I still have one branch pressed in a book, though it has dried and darkened after so many years.

At the time of the accident the story was in all the newspapers across Canada – 7 people died. One paramedic on the scene said that it was the worst accident scene he had ever seen.  Fortunately the accident happened before the advent of the Internet and detailed coverage of tragedies. There were no journalists at her funeral, thankfully.  Now you can only find one reference to her via a scholarship set up in her name at Queen’s University, Kingston. The one newspaper story I found about the accident online includes the details that were shared in newspapers across the country. Coincidentally, Walt Whitman wrote a poem about the lilac season and how it triggered a memory of friends who had died.

I am quite certain that a lilac season won’t go by without remembering my friend Karen Huntley.  In her daily life she showed deep humility in her dealings with others and a sense of wonder – the cornerstones of wisdom.  At almost 24, she had a wise air about her. She loved the natural world and beauty.  She was a biology student at Queen’s University and loved tree planting.

Lilac season is a fitting way to remember her.


Photographs of tree planting in Canada in 1990

Video of a tree planting camp near Fox Creek, taken in 2010

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2 thoughts on “Remembering in Lilac Season

  1. Remembering Karen Huntley, thank you so much for posting such kind words but more importantly, remembering our dear friend Karen. I had the honor of knowing Karen and we shared a very special friendship in high school. Karen would have been 46 years old today and like every year, I am reminded of the loss of our friend and how I will never forget her. Rarely does a day go by that I don’t remember her. I am reminded of her every time I hear certain songs we listened to or those which are from the same era that we spent time together. I am a much better person for knowing Karen and I will always cherish the time God allowed me to spend with her. Today I am expecting a Grandson at any moment. How fitting to bring in a new life as I remember my friend Karen and her family. James and Margaret, your daughter touched so many lives and will never be forgotten.

    God Bless,
    David Blyth

  2. Thank you for sharing your beautiful memories of Karen on her birthday, David. I recall how Margaret gave Karen’s friends bunches of lilacs when we arrived at the cemetery. Lilac season – for me – will always be a reminder of Karen. How wonderful that your grandson will be celebrating his birth on Karen’s birthday. Congratulations to you and your family.

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