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Flowers for Memories/Remembering Someone Dead

Updated on June 18, 2013

Flowers for Memories?

In “Remembering All the Boys”, Elvia Bautista makes the statement that “A grave without any flowers looks like the person has been forgotten.” Bautista is motivated by an internal drive to leave flowers on gravestones in remembrance of people’s lives. She deems it necessary to do this lest someone is forgotten. To Bautista, being forgotten is a horrid concept which compels her to leave luscious blooms on grave sites. If a grave with flowers signifies that the departed is remembered, does a blossom free grave then signify that the deceased is beyond memory? Certainly not. Flowers are lovely, delicate, and aromatic, which cannot be denied. Yet, there are explanations for why flowers may not be used, as well as more meaningful modes of remembering someone.

One down-to-earth reason that a resting place may not have flowers is that the departed simply does not wish it or was even allergic to them. My grandmother was hypersensitive to the scent of flowers and would always go into sneezing fits when she was around them. When she became aware that her demise was near she demanded that no flowers would be present at her funeral. She feared that even in death she would be unable to rest in peace if a spray of blossoms were near (dementia, maybe?). In the same vein, my father has informed the family that he does not wish for us to place flowers on his grave because it would be a squandrance of money since he will be dead and unable to appreciate them. In these cases, would it not be more important to heed the wishes of the deceased rather than follow common protocol?

There are other reasons that a grave may be flower free. Perhaps everyone who was alive to know the person are all deceased themselves. In which case, that person cannot be forgotten because there is no one around to remember or forget. On the other hand, the departed may be remembered through family stories, but the family may have lost track of where their loved ones rest over the decades or centuries. People may also perform certain activities that they used to do with the departed as a way to maintain their feeling of connection to that someone, or they may pray to them in hopes that they are in Heaven. Personal reminiscing is also common as people recall the joys and sorrows they have shared with the departed. None of these involve sprays of narcissi, lilies, or roses, nor do they signify a lack of memory.

Is there an ultimate way to express respect and remembrance for someone’s life? The greatest way that I can think of to show respect for another person and the life that they lived is by sharing that person’s central messages with others, the things that they shared. These things do not have to be something grand. It is often the simple things that we deem truly worthy. Core values like hard work, being considerate and compassionate towards others, and honesty are basic lessons that many people learn. Sometimes the messages are simple joys or appreciations for things. When people pass these lessons on to others they are not only giving validation to the values, they are also validating those people who instilled them in themselves.

The continuation of traditions is a way of forwarding the importance of the deceased. My mother used to find pleasure in baking with her great aunt. She has shared that enjoyment with me. In turn, I am carrying out the tradition with my daughters who find cooking and baking to be great fun. Through baking, my mother has always remembered those times with her great aunt. I always remember the comfort of cooking with my own mother, and my children will probably look back at our kitchen experiences in the same light. Hopefully, my girls will maintain this tradition when they have families of their own. Eventually as the generations continue no one will remember my great-great aunt, my mother, or myself, but hopefully they will all continue to find a sense of joy and contentment in creating baked goods in a warm kitchen. In this fashion, our spirits shall persist not in memory, but in the action of others.

Actions speak louder than words, and words speak louder than flowers. Flowers are easily obtained, but action takes work and time. When someone finds inspiration in the teachings of another, they are often too busy trying to actualize those dreams to worry about posies and stones. It is a far greater compliment to the deceased if someone is out making a difference in the world and carrying out their shared dreams for the benefit of humanity. Forwarding the departed’s impact through action is not only a show of respect, but a way of continuing their affect in the world even after they are gone. The effect of one person on another is like the silvery-blue undulations of water in a pool. One leads into another in a graceful cycle. Long after a stone is thrown the water’s movement persists, just as after one person is gone a dream and the battle for its actualization may persist. Yet, if a person merely spends their time placing bouquets on cold stone the water will never begin to ripple.

Some florists or gardeners might object to the perspective that a grave does not need flowers to demonstrate that a person is remembered. Flowers are a common symbol of remembrance and respect for the deceased. However, a grave lacking flowers doesn’t necessarily mean that a person has been forgotten. There are various reasons why people may not leave flowers, as well as more personal ways of remembering those who have passed before. The dead may be remembered, and the living may choose different ways to remember them than by just setting an arbitrary symbol over their resting place. True remembrance comes from the heart, while flowers come from the florist. So, rather than giving a gorgeous bouquet to a corpse who has no senses to enjoy it, people should keep their posies at home and reminisce of their loved ones each time they glance at them. That way the florist can stay in business, the gardener may remain active, and fond memories won’t fade into ancient history as pretty petals wither without appreciation.


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