2010-01-01 / Columnists

The Diary Of A Green Thumb

Commentary by Danielle, Danielle’s Rockaway Florist

Funeral flowers are a visual expression of love, sympathy and respect. They are a means of lending support, and sharing the burden of grief. Sending flowers became a huge part of the services for the deceased because they bring comfort to the family and give friends a way to express sincere condolences.

The tradition of using flowers at a funeral began many centuries ago in the Shanidar cave burials. They were not sent by people who knew or loved the deceased. They were actually laid on top, and all around the casket to mask the smell of the decomposing body. Long ago, before we began embalming bodies, the fragrance of the flowers hid the odor long enough for the funeral to take place. A great example of this was seen 1874, with one of the most famous services in history for President Andrew Johnson. By the time the viewing began, the scent became so strong that the undertaker piled heap loads of fragrant flowers all around the casket to make it bearable enough to hold the services.

The dignity and fashion in which a funeral service is held has changed over time. With influence from religious beliefs, and an integration of customs, funerals have become a tribute to the life of the person who passed, and a comfort to all who have been touched by that person. In 1912, a writer by the name of Austin Miles awoke from a dream that had spiritually inspired him. He wrote a funeral hymn that caught on quickly and was used at many funerals because it gave strength to all mourners who read or heard it. The theme of this hymn was so persuasive that even the funeral homes began to style the chapels around the thoughts of this moving piece. The chapels were actually solariums that were filled with lush plants and flowers, waterfalls, and even birds flying around to create the feeling of the hymn “In the Garden.” With this, the importance of sending funeral flowers grew and the symbolism of flowers became more meaningful.

Flowers add a background of warmth and beauty. They are a big part of the lasting impression that the bereaved have of the final tributes to the deceased. They also help to lift the spirits

of the family because each floral arrangement fills the room with color and life, and shows the family just how much they are loved with big beautiful reminders at a time when they need it most. They symbolize support and sharing in a time of grief. It is hard to put the mourning of a loved one into words, but sending a special tribute to the funeral home shows respect for the life that was lived, and sharing in the sorrow of the loss.

Flowers are so important at a funeral that some time ago, mid-western funeral practices began a tradition of gathering six flower women who would help carry the floral arrangements from the funeral parlor to the car, and then help display them again at the cemetery. The flower ladies were chosen by the family, as they were usually close friends or relatives of the deceased – similar to pall bearers.

An obituary is an announcement of death, and an invitation for family and friends to pay their last respects. From time to time, families may include “in lieu of flowers” in the obituary. A donation to a specific organization may be requested, rather than sending a traditional flower arrangement, although, many people continue to see the importance in sending something meaningful for the family to have at the service as a special remembrance. Keeping in mind that the family would like something lasting, a new era of funeral tributes has come to life. Sending vestments (the robes that a priest wears while saying mass) to a funeral has become more popular than ever because it is displayed at the funeral home as a reminder to the family that they are thought of at such a difficult time. The vestment is then embroidered in memory of the deceased with their name, and donated to a local church. The priest, often times, wears the vestment during the funeral mass.

Sending peace lily plants or outdoor perennials such as a live tree, a rose bush or hydrangea has become very popular as well. After the services, the family can take the plants home and see every bloom as a beautiful reminder of their loved one. As the flowers return from year to year, they are an ongoing comfort to the family, and a beautiful memorial to the celebration of life.

Garden angels or statues of the blessed mother have been incorporated into large baskets of plants and flowers for an even deeper meaning to the tribute. These statues and angels can be kept at the grave site, or brought home with the family to have in their home or garden. Flowers can be arranged around tapestries of spiritual prayers, or inscribed stones with beautiful poems about their relationship with the deceased. Specialty arrangements can be made to incorporate a theme or hobby of the deceased to tell a story of their lives, or show what was held most important to them. For example, an arrangement of flowers designed in the shape of a cross shows commitment to their religious values. Pride in heritage can be shown with flowers in the shape of a shamrock. A policeman’s hat or an American flag can be incorporated into a floral arrangement for those who have served our country. Logos of a baseball team, motorcycles, a deck of cards …. the possibilities are endless, and the meaning behind them is more special than the last.

No matter the tribute, the importance of flowers at a funeral has grown over time to bring comfort and peace to a family that has lost a loved one. There are so many different ways you can send a meaningful tribute that reflects the life of the deceased and brings support to the family in a time of grief. Visit our web site at www.DaniellesRockawayFlorist.com to see some other sympathy arrangements that can really help you to express your love and comfort for family or friends in the time of sorrow.

Feel free to write to us at 436 Beach 129 Street with your gardening questions or tips for our readers. Wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2010!

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