The Comforting Presence of Sympathy Flowers

The Comforting Presence of Sympathy Flowers

The Comforting Presence of Sympathy Flowers

In times past, florists were some of the very first people contacted when a friend or loved one passed away. Sympathy flowers and tributes were an integral part of the viewing and funeral services, with some of the pieces being very elaborate…floral harps, gates ajar, empty chair…etc. Folks understood the comforting power of flowers and wanted to make sure the funeral home was filled with flower arrangements and plants to surround the grieving family in their time of loss.

In recent times however, people have apparently had a hard time seeing the “need” to spend money on sympathy flowers…after all, they are just going to wither and fade away, right? Why not contribute money to the deceased’s church, charity or “cause” instead? “In Lieu of Flowers” sprang up to capitalize on the trend while viewings and funeral services have become more and more sterile…lacking flowers and the warmth they bring. Don’t get me wrong, florists are still doing sympathy flower business – just not on the scale as in previous years.

I just recently came to understand the comforting presence of sympathy flowers on a very personal level. As some of you may know, my Aunt Becky (my mom’s sister) unexpectedly and tragically died on June 18th. Her death came as a great shock to all the family and we were left reeling…trying to make sense of it. Since my aunt and the rest of my mom’s family live in Ohio (I live in SC) and due to my husband’s and daughter’s work schedules, I was unable to make the trip for the funeral. My mom did however, and made the journey back to her childhood home from VA to be with her family and help to make funeral arrangements. Unfortunately, what was supposed to be a weekend funeral turned in to a nearly week long nightmare. Because of complicated circumstances, my aunt wasn’t laid to rest until the 26th.

I wanted to let my family know that I was grieving with them, thinking of them and wanting to comfort them….my first thought went to flowers (of course) to convey my feelings – to connect with them in some way. Finding a good florist in another state was as simple as sending out a message to my friends on Flower Chat that I was looking for a reputable florist in the Martins Ferry, OH area. Several FCers responded and recommended Ponzani Flowers in St. Clairsville.

I went online to view the sympathy arrangements on the Ponzani website and chose a nice grapevine wreath with a mix of mums, lisianthus, asters and carnations in various shades of purple and lavender. It was a pretty, traditional piece but not “funerally” looking – just what I wanted and knew my family would appreciate. I called Ponzani and ordered over the phone. The friendly sales lady asked me when the funeral would be and I had to admit that I wasn’t sure. “No problem,” she said, “I will contact the funeral home and find out…we will take care of all the details.” That made me feel a lot better. Little did I know that the funeral of my aunt would be delayed so drastically. I’m sure Ponzanis had to call the funeral home several times to finalize the arrangements.

When I talked to my mom this past Saturday after she arrived back home in VA, mom seemed shaken by the experience. “It was one of the worst weeks of my life,” she admitted in exasperation. Then she remarked about the wreath I had sent. She said that it was gorgeous and everyone was talking about it. My grandmother especially appreciated it and broke down in tears when she found out that I was the one who had sent the arrangement. Mom kept going on and on about the flowers and I could tell that they had been the only bright spot in what was a very long, hellish week for her.

The wreath made it’s way from the funeral home, to my grandmother’s house and then finally, taking it’s place as the only marker for my Aunt Becky’s grave site. With her voice cracking, my mom described to me in detail how she pounded the legs of the wire stand into the ground and lovingly secured the wreath on the easel. It was evident that, by doing this simple act, it helped to bring some peace and closure to my mom’s heartbreaking week. In this final act of love for her sister, my mother used FLOWERS to honor Becky and to say her last goodbye. Man, it’s so hard to write this without crying.

It was FLOWERS, not a monetary gift sent “In Lieu of Flowers”, that gave warmth to my aunt’s viewing, comfort to my family, and closure for my mother who lost her sister all too soon. FLOWERS mark my aunt’s grave until a headstone can be placed. FLOWERS helped ME to connect with and comfort my family. No amount of money sent to charity, church or a favorite “cause” can do all that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that giving money to these worthy institutions in honor of the deceased is wrong…I’m just expressing the REALITY and FACT that FLOWERS have the unique ability, presence and power to accomplish SO MUCH for families that are hurting. I’m a witness to the healing power of flowers….and so is my mom.

Special thanks to the good folks at Ponzani Flowers in St. Clairsville, OH and to all the florists who create the floral designs that bring comfort, warmth and love to those who are grieving over the death of a loved one.

Lisa's Aunt Rebecca

In honor of my Aunt, Rebecca J. Cottello (Nov. 16, 1946 - June 18, 2009)