6 May 2013

a broken lily

a peace lily cutting | May 2013

When mum died 4½ years ago my brother and I organised the flowers for a pedestal in the church for her funeral service. The florist had premises just around the corner from the town centre church where the service took place. She told us that they had done a few floral arrangements for weddings and funerals at the particular church and were accustomed to walking finished blossoming artworks just around the corner.

We didn't get a close look at the flower display until we got back to the church after the committal at the crematorium. There were a good number of people to talk to, since mum was only just into her seventies, had lived in the same house and attended the same church for over forty years and she pre-deceased most of her contemporaries.

In the conversations we were aware of some whispers “did you see the broken lily?” Not necessarily direct, but still passing around amongst the general chatter, something for people to talk about in those circumstances when people don’t really know what to say to the bereaved family beyond a sorry for your loss and a few uneasy platitudes.

It’s not as though mum’s death was unexpected. She had been ill for several years and the cancer advanced rapidly during the last months, rampaging its effects swiftly in any area of her body where fragments of health still remained. The distressing impact of end-stage cancer meant more earnest prayers of ‘Lord take her quickly and relieve her suffering.’ He did answer those prayers.

Even in the midst of relief that suffering is ended, there is the numb, disbelief for those left behind. In limbo and in the uneasy company of a multitude of feelings that death and its sudden severance brings. 

And around the flower arrangement we the family found ourselves gathered, with the other close family members. The broken tribe, heavy with sorrow, including too in our conversations the missing brother who was absent with easily uttered excuses, but for reasons known only to himself. 

There but not there. 

Kin who had travelled the miles, sensing a new corporate incompleteness and saying our goodbyes to each other. And our final parting with Audrey, wife, mother, sister, grandmother, auntie whose blood lives on in most of us. 

One of the peace lilies in the flower arrangement had a broken stalk which was first noticed after the florists had vacated the building. And those women who gather on these days of sad, salty tears and farewells could not decide between them. Whether the brokenness was a careless mistake by the florist and that the stem had been accidentally damaged by the human hands that walked the flowers into the building or whether it was a deliberate broken stalk leaving the flower hanging down perhaps to convey sadness. One or two ladies when they passed the flower stand had tried to inconspicuously resurrect the bloom, but the flower obstinately drooped anyway.

I like to think that the peace lily was weighed down by all sorts of things on that day, mostly sadness.

But often I have looked back and most clearly seen in that broken bloom, the sheer beauty of all the imperfections. 

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