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Remembering With Flowers

Posted by Theology of Home on
Remembering With Flowers

By Carrie Gress

One of my dearest friends, Lizz Lovett, died several years ago this week. Unable to make her funeral on the west coast, I indulged in bringing home a bunch of lilies. The blooming plant felt like a tiny but justified balm as I mourned from afar. We both loved lilies.

Over the last eight years something unexpected has happened; my lily plant has blossomed annually ever since. It never occurred to me that I could both keep this plant alive, but also that it would bloom at the same time each year. The thumb I was born with is more black than green, which makes their return all the more special each summer when the blossoms begin to emerge. 

This morning, my four-year-old woke up me up. "I have a surprise for you! Come see! Come see!" Usually, his early morning tugs are about breakfast, so I thought little as he led me into the living room. He pointed to the deck and said with great joy: "Ta da! Pink flowers!" What yesterday had been closed greenish-white buds, this morning were seven or eight of the brightest pink blooms smiling back at us. Tears filled my eyes as I took in the bright shock of color and their intoxicating scent.

Lilies have long been considered a symbol of purity and new life. Pink lilies in particularly symbolize femininity. Both capture Lizz, in her deep faith that she lived so eloquently in health and sickness, in her conversion from Buddhism, and in her femininity that she expressed with ease in her love of being a wife and mother. 

But these flowers feel like they are part of a much bigger story. As Emily Malloy wrote in Theology of Home IV: Arranging the Seasons:

The beauty of a bloom is not easily measured or controlled. A flower just is, and because of its simplicity, we delight in it. Yet it also assists in making tangible in the created world that which is unseen but still is. "Beauty contains a summons," said Dietrich von Hildebrand, "it awakes awe in us; it elevates us above that which is base; it fills our hearts with a longing for the eternal beauty of God."

There are many ways we remember our beloved dead: praying for them, praying for their loved ones left behind, visiting gravesites. But this way strikes me as one of the best. Who wouldn't want to be remembered year after year by her favorite flower and that deep connection with a kind of beauty that makes us long for God?

These flowers lift the veil of death ever so slightly. They are a welcome gift reminding me of the specialness of my friend in the bounty and beauty that comes every first week of July. 

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