I had the advantage of being married to someone with three olders sisters and a mom who was an event planner. He knew all about the giving of flowers. He always brought lovely corsages for the dances in high school. We had a tradition of breakfast in bed for birthdays and I could be sure that there would be something blooming on the tray. Even when there was nothing available but a few dandelions, he could figure out how to deliver them with the meal. When he got his first well-paying job as a truck driver, he would always bring me flowers when he delivered in San Francisco because there were street vendors selling flowers on the corners at red lights. He loved to send me flowers at work for anniversaries and hear the stories of my jealous coworkers who rarely, if ever, received flowers themselves. I once had flowers delivered to the dispatch office of the trucking company where he worked. I knew that he was not going to be there all day, but the dispatchers and other drivers coming and going would see them and he would hear over the CB radio that he had flowers in the office. I had them leave the card out of the envelope so all the guys could see that it said, “You’re Still the One.” He loved their snarky remarks and the fact that none of them had every received such a gesture. We did not have sidewalks where we lived, so he planted wildflowers at the front of the yard that would come up each year and look beautiful. Then he would pick some and put them in a vase in the house. The flowers always smelled so great. Flowers became synonymous with Butch and his thoughtfulness. They were one of the many ways he showed me that he loved me and thought about me when I was not there.
Fortunately, new chapters of the story of me and flowers were written immediately after his death. Since he died February 13th, Valentines Day was the first land mine I had to face. My oldest son (who is the living personification of someone who will never be described as a morning person) got up early and left a bouquet of flowers and a romantic card he signed for his father on the seat of my car. My daughter-in-law regularly brings home a bouquet of flowers for me when she shops. Between them, there have been fresh flowers for mother’s day, my birthday, major holidays, and Valentine’s Day this year. When I made the decision to invite people to dinner at my new home to celebrate my birthday in a new way, three different people brought flowers. Some of them lasted for weeks.
Flowers, once so simple and easy, have been complicated by his death. They are a great example of the multitude of the small and large parts of life that are now complicated in this way. The sadness of knowing I will never again receive flowers from him attaches itself to even the dandelions. But the new traditions being started by others that I love force me to redefine what flowers mean in my life and what they represent in terms of love and thoughtfulness.
Becoming us without them will offer each of us an unlimited number of opportunities to mourn our loved one as we discover yet another layer of ourselves that has been interwoven with them and must now be redefined. Holidays and anniversaries loom large on the horizon and we can develop resources and strategies for lessening the blow. It will take far longer than anyone can predict for these unpredictable triggers to unfold. Regardless of how long it has been, we need to give ourselves permission to feel the pain, mourn this aspect of the loss, and get the help we need to move forward in a healthy way. The surest way to make it worse is to avoid it or try to manage the pain alone. If we are honest with ourselves and those who love and support us, we will change what we can, accept what we can’t, and have the help we need to figure out which is which. These painful processes will become the source of strength we draw on to help others in the way that we have been helped. And all the while we will struggle with the fact that if they were not gone, we wouldn’t have to do any of this.
Ah, for the good old days…………