Iris Harkins, the only other Iris in our large church congregation, often sat behind my family of five during Sunday’s worship service. A friendly woman with a British accent, early on she said her husband Frank gathered with our pastors on the platform.

Reverend Frank Harkins sometimes opened the service with his brogue, prayer, and anecdotes. A young mother of three girls, I thought Frank Harkins the ideal character to lead youth and racetrack ministries. I didn’t know then he fled an abusive home at age ten.

In our early years of worship together in Detroit, I became acquainted with his five daughters who “wormed their way” into Frank Harkins’ heart. To be cliché, his smiling Irish eyes gave him away.

That my father was born an O’Brien endeared me more so to Frank Harkins. And that Iris Harkins birthed two redheads and three brunettes earned my awe reserved for my mother of five different and independent females.

Pauline, the Harkins’ eldest and first brunette, befriended me before we moved our home from Detroit to the country in 1989. Our oldest daughter, troubled with substance abuse, had already left home.

One July day, Pauline drove north to visit and stroll our Natural Beauty Road together. She noticed daylilies budding amongst other native wildflowers.

“Did you know daylily buds are edible?” she asked.


I promptly planted daylilies in my gardens.

Not long after, Pauline married and moved to Newport, Kentucky where her husband began renovating their historic home. For several years, Pauline extended invitations to my husband and me. When Matthew arrived, all the more reason for a reunion.

At last, the weekend of July 4, 1996 lined up for us both. Matthew aimed for kindergarten in the fall. July 5, en route to Pauline’s home, my family met with my Kentucky sister’s family at King’s Island. She broached the dreaded subject.

“Mom found out Becky’s using drugs and wants her out of the house.”

At an inconsiderably late hour, Pauline met my husband, middle daughter, and me at her door. She led us upstairs to our rooms before she invited me to the kitchen. There we prayed for Becky and attempted to gain some peace and understanding.

Hours later, Pauline knocked on the door where my husband and I slept. I knew by my friend’s face that something terrible had happened. She leaned against the doorjamb.

Somehow, my gracious friend announced our firstborn’s death.

Today, I read Iris Harkin’s obituary. Born February 6, 1922, fifteen days after my mother’s birth, Iris lived thirteen years after my mother passed, and fifteen years beyond Frank’s departure for Glory.

I slide open my kitchen door to the scent of rainfall, the fecund promise of another resurrection. Although the deer nibbled my day-lilies again, there’ll be enough buds to harvest for a delicious memorial.

Dear Reader, the last Iris in this congregation of believers, I do this for Pauline and her sisters, daughters who wormed their way into their parents’ heart.

Contact Iris at