Lily tells the reader she's now too old to perform any household chores, and she's too tired to shoo flies off her hands. She's lived too long. After Snow Flower died, she mentally began her years of "sitting quietly," even though her rice-and-salt days were by no means over.
One could argue that Lily was punished for her part in Snow Flower's short and miserable life by being allowed to live "too long." She now elicits pity from those around her, just as Snow Flower elicited pity from Lily 40 years ago.
Lily says that she needed Snow Flower's children so she could try to make amends to her laotong, but it's hard to be generous when you don't know how. In the months after Snow Flower's death, Lily took her place in Spring Moon's wedding ceremonies. On her wedding night, Spring Moon threw herself into the village well and died. Gossip circulated comparing Spring Moon to Snow Flower, and Lily shut it down when she heard it. Lily felt as though she'd failed Snow Flower miserably, and recorded Spring Moon's death on their fan.
Finally, Lily fully understands and accepts that she simply never had the skills necessary to truly love and be generous. This realization completes Lily's final stage of coming of age, as she now has the wisdom to reflect on herself and note her flaws. She's unable to break the cycle of violence and save Spring Moon, but Spring Moon removes herself from the cycle.
Next, Lily turned to Snow Flower's son. He'd recently married and his wife was pregnant, and Lily hated the thought of her living with the butcher's family. Lily asked her husband to help, and Dalang hired Snow Flower's son to collect taxes and gave him his own house.
In her later years, Lily is finally able to make the Tale of Wife Wang apply to her own life as she helps raise the butcher's family out of their unsavory profession.
When Lily turned 50 and stopped menstruating, people in her household began waiting on her. She wished to abstain from bed business and went against her earlier plan to never bring concubines into her home. She found three concubines to entertain Dalang, and the fact that she found them herself prevented jealousy and pettiness in the upstairs chamber. Lily's relationship with her husband became companionable. He sat with her in the women's chamber and talked with her, and their home was full of grandchildren.
Now that Lily has accomplished all the duties of a woman, she and her husband are able to have a truly close relationship. This suggests that Lily in some ways is rewarded for her good behavior. Her decision to bring in concubines for her husband is a selfless one, and shows that she's internalized what she learned from Snow Flower. She cares truly for her husband's happiness.
There was one child, though, that Lily desperately wanted: Snow Flower's granddaughter, the daughter of Snow Flower's son. Lily's husband obliged her wishes, and Lily sent for Madame Wang when the girl's feet were about to be bound. Madame Wang looked very old, and Lily believed she didn't recognize her, but when Lily mentioned who the girl was, Madame Wang proved otherwise. Madame Wang tried to argue, but gave in when Lily said that she believed Snow Flower would've approved. Lily was then able to bring the girl, named Peony, under her care, and even bound her feet herself. She spoke to Peony of Snow Flower, nu shu, and friendship.
Many years later, Madame Wang shows that she still loves Snow Flower. This indicates that while Lily never gave Madame Wang much credit, she was actually one of the most loving and selfless people in the novel. She did what she had to do to give Snow Flower the best future she could, and is willing to keep doing that to give her granddaughter a better life. Lily will hopefully impress upon Peony the importance of nu shu so that Peony may avoid making the mistakes Lily made.
Lily's husband died when Lily was 57, and after that the days, weeks, and years began running together. Lily saw everyone die, including Yonggang and Jade. Lily’s first son became a jinshi scholar and has already bought Lily a lacquered coffin. Peony is now 37 and has five children. In their faces, Lily sees both Snow Flower and herself. Lily is content knowing that both her blood and Snow Flower's will rule the house of Lu—as Peony’s husband is Lily's grandson.
As a very old woman, Lily has to bear the same pain that Snow Flower did, when Jade dies before Lily does. This again supports the idea that living so long is in itself a kind of punishment. However, Lily believes that she's finally acted in such a way as to honor Snow Flower's memory by bringing her bloodline into the extremely prosperous Lu family—and indeed, they are now truly sisters in a more literal sense.
When Lily was traveling to Jintian to teach Peony nu shu, women began asking her if she would copy down their autobiographies. Lily charged a small fee and tried to get the women to value their lives, most of which were miserable. She wonders why a man would treasure his wife if he sees her as little better than a chicken or a water buffalo. Hearing these stories made Lily consider her own life, in which she treated Snow Flower, the one person she truly loved, like a husband would treat a wife. Lily says she's reaching out now to Snow Flower and others who witnessed her life, and she asks them for forgiveness.
As her final act Lily seeks to affirm the worth that she now realizes women have, and to encourage other women to believe in their own worth—and to do this through language and nu shu in particular. It's implied that Lily dies after the close of the novel, but we see at the end that she finally realizes that the world isn't so black and white as she once believed. Her stories come from men and women; her thoughts are masculine and feminine. She wishes to impart these lessons to the reader as a final good deed.