I was going to be late for the service if I didn’t hurry. My last-minute project, beautiful yet sad, was gently carried to the car. The freshly filled antique pot took up most of the passenger seat, and I was careful going around corners on the way to the funeral home. The staff didn’t bat an eyelash as I lugged the awkward burden through the halls to the salon reserved for my mother’s farewell. Sherrie, my older sister, spotted me first and approached with a smile on her face.
“Patrick! I was afraid we’d have to start without you! We already have a room full of flowers – why in the world did you bring more?”
It took a moment, but when she realized what I was carrying her eyes misted over.
“Oh…mom would have approved. I can’t believe we didn’t think of this earlier.”
I simply nodded and together we moved several of the colorful arrangements at the front to make room. There was no coffin, only an oval table with a squat bronze-colored container of my mother’s ashes and a flattering photograph taken before the ravages of Alzheimer’s claimed her. We set the heavy blue and white ceramic pot in the center of the table, ashes on one side, photo on the other. While not traditional, the blossom-laden stems meant something to us as a family. Sherrie nodded in approval, hugged me fiercely, and invited me to sit with her for the service.
Instead of listening to the officiant, my mind was lost in memories. The ceramic container belonged to my mother. Every year of my childhood and beyond, it stood watch on the front porch, filled with red geraniums. She loved flowers, especially roses, and somehow found the time to keep something blooming all year round. My older brother, Chris, dead for many years already, used to bring her samples of flora he found in the woods behind our house. She would find a place to plant them under trees or in flower beds, unconcerned whether they were in vogue.
One spring, Chris brought her a wild bleeding heart bush. Mom placed it proudly by the sidewalk leading to our front door. Every occupant and visitor passed it, enjoying the strange but beautiful blossoms year after year. Before the house was sold to strangers, I transplanted part of the bush to my own yard in memory of both of them. Today, it was my heart which was bleeding, but the beautiful blooms eased the pain with pleasant memories and helped me say goodbye.
(Author’s note – parts of this story are based on actual events.)