Today is Remembrance Day and war memorials all over the country are displaying poppy wreaths in memory of those who lost their lives serving our country. The Tower of London featured a magnificent and moving poppy tribute this year.
It got me thinking about the symbolism of memorial flowers and what that means to me now.
I love flowers and I used to buy the occasional bunch to cheer up a room but, since we lost Abi, flowers have become a big part of our lives – a regular essential on the weekly shopping list.
In my immediate grief, my sensitivity to nature was heightened. All of a sudden I saw in detail the beauty of all God’s creation – and the simple beauty of a rose gave me comfort.
Our house was filled with flowers for weeks after Abi’s death, all gifts from friends. I found the house so bare and depressing when they all finished that I carried on buying them. I suppose, in a way, their presence, and their delicate beauty, has replaced the presence of Abi in our home.
We generally visit Abi’s memorial every week or so to replenish her vase.
I often choose roses in bright colours, particularly the orange that Abi looked great in, or yellow for her sunny smile, or pure white. I buy two or three bunches and share them between her memorial and home. I usually get them from the supermarket but on special days I’ll buy a handmade display from our fabulous local florist.
Yesterday, I updated her memorial and, as I cleared away the dead flowers, I seemed to notice them more than the fresh ones – the lifecycle of a flower which could one day be filling us with joy, the next be put in the garden waste.
It’s not nice to see dead flowers at her memorial. I’ve heard people comment how graves look awfully depressing with the inevitable browned petals and leaves, and dried stems. Some people leave artificial flowers at graves in our cemetery, I suppose if they can’t visit as often as they’d like or to save money, but fresh flowers have been vital to my grief.
The very act of choosing flowers – I never just grab them on a whim in the shop but I can spend ages carefully choosing the best bunch: the right colour, ones she would like, ones that look like they will last, the best flower for leaving out in the air etc..
Then taking them to her memorial – I brace myself somewhat as I approach the cemetery. It’s a lovely place as far as cemeteries go, but I am wondering and worrying how she’s looking, if she will be looking neglected, if anyone else has visited and left something, if I will have the place to myself (which I usually do). I’m remembering why she’s there but yet not there.
Thankfully, she’s never looked too worse for wear. Nothing that a simple clear up doesn’t quickly solve. Then clearing away the old flowers and carefully placing new ones in her vase is my way of looking after her like I did when she was alive. It’s all I can do for her, make her look nice.
Flowers look beautiful alive and then they fade. Their life is all too brief. To me, they symbolise that life is beautiful but death comes and it is ugly…we want to turn our eyes from it, in the grief, loss and desolation.
But flowers bud, grow and bloom again – we forget the faded flowers and remember how beautiful they are. They symbolise new beginnings and eternal beauty.
That is why cut flowers are so important to me. Do you have a special flower that reminds you of someone you love?