I was walking through the grocery store late one afternoon in the spring picking up some flowers for the birthday celebration of one of our daughters. I grabbed up a pretty bouquet and was heading for the check-out when I saw a lady I knew from church.
"Those are mighty pretty," she said, asking if they were for my wife. I told her about the birthday plans.
She looked at me and said, "I wish I still had someone to buy flowers for me."
It had been less than a year since her husband had passed away and I could see the emptiness as she uttered those words. I touched her hand on the grocery buggy handle and said, "Yes ma’am."
It was all I could say. I couldn’t say, "I know how you feel," because I don’t what it feels like to lose a spouse of more than 60 years.
I thought of one more item I needed and went elsewhere in the store. Then, it hit me: Why didn’t I buy her some flowers, too?
I left my buggy and went to find her. I found she had already checked out and was gone.
The next night, I bought a bouquet of flowers and took them to her house. We had a nice visit and the light that was missing from her face a day earlier had returned, if only for a little while. As it turned out, it was a day before her birthday and she was going to have lunch the next day with friends.
It was one of the last times we would speak to each other.
She passed away last week, barely a year after her husband.
When I heard she had died, I was glad that something inside of me made me want to take that bouquet to her home that evening.
It made me think of that old bluegrass song, "Won’t you give me my flowers while I’m living and let me enjoy them while I can. Please don’t wait till I’m ready to be buried and then slip some lilies in my hand."
I think there is some merit in that thought. I have been to funerals where there were two van loads of flowers. I’ve read old news accounts that when Gov. Gene Talmadge died, it took two train cars to carry all the flowers down to their home in McRae.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not against flowers at funerals. Some people find it is their only way to grieve.
But the departed person isn’t going to enjoy them. They are an expression of sympathy to the survivors.
There used to be a popular style of funeral arrangement. A big wreath with a dangling receiver of a plastic toy telephone and big ribbon with the words, "Jesus Called."
I’m not speaking for the Lord, but I’m pretty sure he would rather us call on a living person and offer a little sunshine in their lives.
There are folks whose day could be just a little bit brighter by a kind word. I’m glad I did it for a lady who seemed to need it on the day I stopped by.
Harris Blackwood is a columnist for The Times. His column appears every week in Sunday Life.