Flowers for the Living

For Danielle. Sort of... But it's for everyone who has lost someone... And all the rest of us.

Why is it that it takes somebody dying before people come together - I mean, REALLY come together - to celebrate that person? I want to know. This has been circling the back of my mind like a flock of vultures and picking away at the edges of my thoughts for literally, weeks now.

It is so frustrating.

Anyway, I got to thinking about death. What death means, and how we respond to it. What life means, and how we respond to that.

It all started because a friend of mine died quite suddenly recently, and... She was such a fun, awesome person, and now she's gone. And I can almost guarantee that the hundred or so people in the room at her funeral had never ALL been together in a room before.

And that made me really angry.

I guess part of that is my grief showing up, because I'm still sad about her, but it's more than that. It makes me angry that when we die, all these people show up to talk about how great we were. Really?

I mean, seriously, it's retarded.

Ya'll (Sorry guys, my Southern "roots" show up a little more when I'm mad.) can't bother to show up for a holiday get-together or a birthday party or a fun weekend or whatever, but hey, I'm dead now, so let's all show up and talk about how awesome she was and how much we miss her...

No. If she was that awesome, you'd have made time for her while she was still freaking alive and wanted you around. (And don't get me wrong, I *know* that plenty of people DID make time for my sweet friend before she died. It just frustrated me to think that they were probably never all in the same room together to celebrate her while she was alive.)

That's what's at the core of this for me, I guess. That the "Hey everybody, let's get together and CELEBRATE each other!" thing doesn't happen nearly as often or as beautifully as it should. And that often we are made to feel as though we are imposing on others' schedules when we *do* ask for that time...

We get so caught up in the minutia of our microscopic lives that it takes the DEATH of young, vibrant, beautiful, giving and compassionate woman before everybody's willing to take a pause, take a breath and go, "Wait up. She was awesome. And we didn't bother to tell her enough before she was gone."

It was enough to make me stop, shake my head, and wonder. Who am I? What will people say about ME when I die?

Honestly, I could care less what people think of me when I die. Or what they say. You know why? Because I'LL BE DEAD. And here's a little secret for you: dead people don't care what the living have to say to, for, or about, them.

It's now, here, in the land of the LIVING that I actually care. Here, in this place, where I still breathe the same air as you do... Where I'm still able to laugh, and cry, and wash the same damned laundry day after day after day after day, and yell at my kids. Here is where I care.

So tell me now, or don't tell me at all. Because once I'm dead, it's over. There'll be no more telling then.

And I'll tell you. Let's make a deal of it, k?

I think of that almost every day now. I think of it every time I say goodbye, or goodnight, or whatever... "Did I tell them that I love them? Did I make them feel special enough... Just in case there is no tomorrow?" Not always in so many words, but the thought is still there, peering over my shoulder to make sure I haven't forgotten.

This is especially poignant for me, because in living with diabetes, you learn really quickly that most people who know about diabetes, including - and maybe especially - your doctor, don't really expect you to live all that long. Which kind of sucks. Like, hardcore sucks. You become aware of your mortality a lot more quickly than others may... Even more so when you've had a brush with death through DKA (Diabetic Ketoacidosis. It sucks, trust me in this.). *I* expect to live a long time, but that doesn't mean anything either. Even if I didn't have Type 1, there's no guarantee that I have another hour or another day. I just live a little closer to te reality of what death is than many people do because I have Type 1.

And being a parent with this... WHOA, Mama, it really brings it home.

So I want to start a new tradition. A new way of going about things. Because the land of regret is for the dead. And I don't ever want to go there... I'm not afraid of death, but I am afraid that I'll look back again sometime and say, "I wish I'd told her how much she meant to me." 

The dead don't care about our wishes. Our love that we didn't express, our hopes that we never shared, or the laughs over that last margarita that we never had.

So why do we wait until someone dies to shower them with beautiful flowers and equally beautiful words?

Life gives to the living, and the dead care nothing for it. Our words of affirmation and love and beauty are best spent on the spirits of those around us who still draw breath and can be affirmed and loved and receive beauty.

When I was a young teen, I went to a summer camp where we had a project where we had to give "Flowers for the Living." What this meant was that we each were given a box, and every person at some point during the week of that camp had to write at least one thing about someone else that they appreciated and admired. This was almost 20 years ago, and I still have some of those little slips of paper. They were precious to me, and carried me through some very hard times. And I still remember that experience clearly. It rocked my world in an awesome and powerful way.

So starting here and now, where I have become lax and apathetic and unappreciative... Or where I have held my words to myself, thinking I am too effusive - I want to shake that off. I want to give my flowers to the living.

I want to follow the wisdom of Henry Ward Beecher: “Do not keep alabaster boxes of your love and tenderness sealed up until your friends are dead.  Fill their lives with sweetness, speak approvingly, and cheer them with words and deeds while their ear can hear them and their hearts be thrilled by them.”

Oh, yes. I want to thrill the ears and hearts of everyone I know. Lord grant that I may do so.


  1. Girl! This is so true!! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and heart on this...I feel you do this already, least I feel as though you speak words of life to me all the time and are one of my main cheerleader's in life. And that to me speaks volumes about how you feel about me, so thank you. : )

  2. I'm sorry about the loss of your friend. So true, so poignant, this blog post.

    I also think, in terms of our family, that sometimes we spend so much time out in the world, playing nice (at work, with our bosses, with our colleagues, or when other people are around) but forget to "play nice" at home. You get bogged down with, "Who is going to scoop the cat box?" and, "Pick up your socks!" and forget to say enough, "Kid, you are the best thing that ever happened to me."

    Kristen, I'm glad you have come into my life through this sideways path :). --Connie