lightning flowers

Sarah K. Lenz

Sarah K. Lenz’s nonfiction has appeared in numerous liteary journals. Three of her essays have been named Notable in Best American Essays, and she received the New Letters Readers’ award in nonfiction.

Sarah holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from Georgia College in Milledgeville, where her claim to fame is that she once held Flannery O’ Connor’s bra while working as a student-curator at the museum, Andalusia. Sarah also holds an MA in literature from Boise State University, and a BFA in fiction writing from the University of Nebraska, Omaha.

She’s the founder of the Writers’ Studio – Corpus Christi, a community-based literary arts organization devoted to creative writing education. Sarah also serves as the prose editor for the Switchgrass Review. She teaches composition, creative writing, and literature at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas where she lives with her husband, son, and three cantankerous housecats. Find her online at sarahklenz.com.

Memoir

Lightning Flowers

written by Sarah K. Lenz

After her father gives her a creepy antique photograph depicting three relatives propped up in their coffins, Sarah K. Lenz sets out to discover their story and figure out why postmortem photography haunts her. Lightning Flowers tells the story of her three great uncles who, in 1914, were struck and killed by the same bolt of lightning. It is a thoughtful and moving meditation on what it means to remember the dead and confront one’s own mortality.

While this is a true story, some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of the people involved.

 

Sarah Lenz has also contributed the story Driving the Section Line to the podcast.

 

© 2013 Sarah K. Lenz | Recording © 2022 Rivercliff Books & Media. All rights reserved.

A trio of open caskets are propped on wooden straight back chairs. The open lids of each white coffin reveal a square peephole framing the face and torso of three dead bodies. On top of the caskets, shiny placards read in ornate scroll: “At Rest.”

The dead brothers wear matching dark suits and black bowties. Their dark hair is slicked back from their foreheads. Carnations rest on their chests, near clasped hands. Edgar Allen Poe in triplicate, I think.

He handed me the framed photograph lacquered with dust. Flecks of molded plaster decorating the frame crumbled when I touched it. I’d seen this photo and heard the story before: they were struck by lightning. But looking at it was still chilling.

I used to think that memento mori meant “remember the dead,” and assumed that was the purpose of postmortem photography. But when I recently looked up the phrase, I found its literal translation from the Latin far less congenial: Remember that you will die.

Sarah’s photo of her three great uncles in their coffins.

misfire

Sarah K. Lenz’s nonfiction has appeared in numerous liteary journals. Three of her essays have been named Notable in Best American Essays, and she received the New Letters Readers’ award in nonfiction.

Sarah holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from Georgia College in Milledgeville, where her claim to fame is that she once held Flannery O’ Connor’s bra while working as a student-curator at the museum, Andalusia. Sarah also holds an MA in literature from Boise State University, and a BFA in fiction writing from the University of Nebraska, Omaha.

She’s the founder of the Writers’ Studio – Corpus Christi, a community-based literary arts organization devoted to creative writing education. Sarah also serves as the prose editor for the Switchgrass Review. She teaches composition, creative writing, and literature at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas where she lives with her husband, son, and three cantankerous housecats. Find her online at sarahklenz.com.

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