Archives for posts with tag: kindness

Funerals and flowers are on my mind again. My mom’s sister-in-law Aunt Maxine died last week. They were the last of their generation in the family, and she was my last person to call Aunt or Uncle.     

Seeing her surrounded by beautiful floral arrangements reminded me of a story my mom told me about a time long ago, when most people were so poor that the things we take for granted were beyond reach. Though people desperately wanted to honor their loved ones with flowers, sometimes it was simply impossible. Or so it seemed.
My mom was a little girl, going about her day, most likely following her mother around the house as she did her daily chores, helping when she could. When a knock came at the door, my grandmother opened it to find two very sad black neighbor ladies.

After exchanging greetings the ladies explained that a little child in their family had died. They were distraught, because they couldn’t afford to buy flowers for the funeral and couldn’t bear to bury such a beloved family member without flowers at all. 

They had come to Miss Georgie, known for her yard full of beautiful flower beds, to ask for a few of her flowers. My grandmother was also known for her kindness and compassion, and with good reason. She said of course they could have flowers. Then she thought for a bit. She smiled and told them to leave for a while and then come back. She would have some flowers ready for them.
Most people would have gone out to select a bouquet for the child’s funeral. Others would have picked her most beautiful blooms and tied them with a saved scrap of ribbon. Miss Georgie was neither. Her category was extraordinary people.

She went into the veritable garden she lived in and picked the most beautiful of her roses and lillies. She gathered ferns and any other complimenting small flowers she thought would help make the collection as beautiful as possible. When she came inside, she did find ribbon, but she went far above and beyond what had been asked of her.
My mom watched, fascinated, as her mother collected cardboard, newspapers, and sewing supplies. She sat down to cut a wreath shape out of the cardboard, then again from layers of newspaper. Somehow, she knew how to fashion a funeral arrangement, by sewing the flowers and ferns to the newspaper sheets thickened by layering, then sewing that to the cardboard, complete with the requisite ribbon bow. My mom told me that by the time it was finished the handmade funeral wreath was as beautiful as anything made by professional florists. 

The grieving ladies came back expecting a handful of simple flowers they could lay on a little child’s grave. What they were presented with was a gorgeous handmade funeral wreath that looked as if it had been professionally made. They were thrilled and so very grateful. My grandmother had been very moved by their plight and was so happy to be able to make a terrible time just a little better. And that day, watching her work so lovingly to help a family in need, made my mom love her mother just a little bit more.

Last summer when I was ordering flowers for my mom’s casket, I got started talking to the florist about this story. He thought it was wonderful and told me that was actually the way they made funeral wreaths so long ago. I don’t know how my grandmother learned to do it, and so well. What I do know is that I’m very proud to be Miss Georgie’s granddaughter.

‚ÄčI was doing good on my first Thanksgiving since I lost my mom. Of course, I missed her more today. We were always together on holidays since her health got so bad. That alone made them special. For a while this morning, I got stuck on the idea that it was the first Thanksgiving of my life that I wouldn’t hear her voice. Over the many times when I was far away from her, we’d talk on the phone no matter where in the world I was. Then I realized I can always hear her voice, if I get still and quiet and remember.

During the years when I was taking care of her, we went out to eat and shop for as long as we could. Then we just went to eat. Eventually, I dashed out for a takeout feast and hurried back so she wouldn’t be alone for too long. I got to the point where I really missed going out to eat and shop. Today, I could.
I ended up at IHOP. I’ve gone out to eat by myself for ages, whenever I was shopping or running errands. Today was different. I felt self-conscious, since I was the only lone diner. Maybe it showed. Maybe someone pitied me. Maybe that’s my dislike of being pitied talking. Maybe someone just wanted me to feel included in the family experience.  For whatever reason, someone paid for my meal. I was stunned and caught off guard, when the cashier and my waitress came to tell me in the middle of my meal. I was very touched and grateful, but that was mixed with a bit of embarrassment. I’m used to being independent and there was a feeling of rejecting what felt like accepting charity, even though I know that’s not what it was about. 
I had managed not to cry all day, but I had to force back tears while I finished eating. In fact I abandoned the final fourth of a very delicious dinner, because I knew I couldn’t keep from crying. I hope no one was offended that I didn’t finish the meal, because I really did appreciate the random act of kindness very much. I got to the car crying and ugly cried all the way toward pre Black Friday sales. I’m lucky I didn’t have a wreck. Being treated extremely kindly will make me sob even more than being treated badly. Having that come on a day when I’d been proud of myself for not crying about my mom made the floodgates not just open, but burst.

I got to Target too early and almost left when I spied the ever growing line from my distant parking spot. When I got out to see how far it went, the woman in the next car got out too to ask if I was going in. I thought I was till I got a real good look at that line. It was just 15 minutes before opening, but very off-putting still. We ended up chatting and she gave me all kinds of Black Friday advice. The one that saved me the most aggravation was that since there’s no good shopping all around that area people get together and charter a bus. Walmart was being swarmed and I nearly drove right into the jammed lot to prove it. We waited it out till the line started moving and braved it together, after exchanging names. She was Eunice, and was interesting to talk with and very kind, especially after I tried to tell her about IHOP and my voice went all quivery again. I left Target with six movies I wouldn’t have now, if Eunice hadn’t befriended someone who had never experienced Black Friday pandemonium.

So, today I’m thankful for wonderful memories of Thanksgivings that still came with a hug and “I love you.” from my mom, for being reminded that there are so many good people in our often troubling world, and that shopping can fit into a day of giving thanks…as part of it.