Flowers and plants for the bereaved

Well, friends, January hasn’t been an easy month so far.

When I read what I just wrote, it is such an understatement. My sister died suddenly on New Year’s Day, and I haven’t felt like doing much, including writing, but writing is what I do, so I decided to blog even though this post may be more personal than usual. I need to do anything that brings me peace and solace during this sad time, and writing is one of those things.

I hope you understand.

Nita Marie Arterburn. She'd love being on this blog today. She really would.
Nita Marie Arterburn. She’d love being on this blog today. She really would.

Everything I could share about gardening seems so irrelevant, but is it really?

What makes people feel better when life becomes too hard to bear? For me, plants are often the answer as they are for so many things. I’m more grateful than ever for the bulbs I forced indoors, and I’ve received some beautiful deliveries at my door too.

This is a red amaryllis I received from the Amaryllis and Caladium Bulb Co., http://www.amaryllis.com/. It had a tag, but just stated "red amaryllis." It's a beautiful dark red.
This is a red amaryllis I received from the Amaryllis and Caladium Bulb Co., http://www.amaryllis.com/. It had a tag, but just stated “red amaryllis.” It’s a beautiful dark red.

I want to thank all my friends and family who sought to make Nita’s passing easier for everyone who loved her. We will miss her laughter and her bright smile, but we believe she is with God, and that we will see her again one day when every tear is dried, and the former things have passed away.

I wasn’t going to share on the blog about my sister’s death because I’m afraid it seems like I’m making it about me, but I find she’s always in my thoughts, 24/7, so bear with me as I share how plants and other things helped me cope with my sadness. I let all of you into my life ten years ago, and I trust you to understand.

Bouquet from Farmgirl Flowers from my sweet Helen and Hannah.
Bouquet from Farmgirl Flowers from my sweet Helen and Hannah.

Flowers are always welcome unless the family has said to support some cause or project in lieu of flowers. Since I’m a flower lover, I found the cut flowers soothing at the memorial service and afterward, especially because we’re in the middle of winter. Their subtle fragrance made the day better, and several people commented upon it, asking me which flowers smelled so good. Snapdragons and roses were two of the best smelling plants in the bouquets. Lilies in a large space were nice too. I love lilies.

I forgot to take photos of the flowers at the service. Some were so beautiful it makes me sad I forgot, but we sent several bouquets to our church for the altar. My mother took home a couple of bouquets, and the others went to nursing homes. A gorgeous peace lily went home with Megan.

Although I can walk out into my garden, the weather is cold, and the garden is sleeping. I can only imagine the bees and other pollinators buzzing about. Right now, they are asleep and waiting for their day to emerge. There will come a new day in spring in which the sun will warm the Earth, and leaves will push forth from the ground unfurling into beautiful flowers just for the bees, hoverflies and butterflies. In the meantime, hothouse flowers remind me of summer and better days.

Bulbs I've forced, paperwhites and hyacinths. I just took these hyacinths out of the closet. I have some that are further along.
Bulbs I’ve forced, paperwhites and hyacinths. I just took these hyacinths out of the closet. I have some that are further along.

Cut flowers and houseplants, which are usually tropical plants, forced bulbs, etc.  are all good choices for grieving families. Trust your florist. He or she knows what is growing or blooming in the greenhouse or further south now.

Flowers from the Farmgirl arrangement.
Flowers from the Farmgirl arrangement.

Grief saps your strength. This morning, I received the most beautiful bouquet from two friends ordered from Farmgirl Flowers. When I opened the box, the scent of roses, tulips, and eucalyptus enveloped me, and I took a deep breath. It was very healing. I then enjoyed selecting a vase and cutting off the end of each stem as I placed the flower or leaf stalk into the vase.

It almost felt like summer again.

Basket of English ivy and Alocasia from dear friends at church. I just love the way the ivy is so bodacious. Reminds me of my sister.
Basket of English ivy and Alocasia from dear friends at church. I just love the way the ivy is so bodacious. Reminds me of my sister.

The main thing for the grieving person is not to make them work very hard to keep things alive. In other words, if the bereaved aren’t plant people, you might want to send another type of gift or a card. I am a plant person so I appreciate all of the living, air-freshening plants in my house right now. Fragrance lifts my spirits. I find all of this very healing, but I’m only one person. Your experience may vary, and that’s o.k.

I’m so glad I also forced bulbs this year. I am never sorry when I do because blooming plants beat the winter blues, but this year it is especially important. I planted ‘Ariel,’ ‘Nir’ and ‘Erlicheer’ in November. Not all paperwhites stink, and these are some of the less smelly varieties. If the scent of paperwhites bothers you, plant an amaryllis bulb instead, or buy a gift plant at the store.

Wind Chimes I bought for myself and for my mother and two of Nita's closest friends.
Wind Chimes I bought for myself and for my mother and two of Nita’s closest friends.

If you know the bereaved well, you might select something that will remind them of happier times with the deceased. For my mom, my sister’s two closest friends and myself, I bought wind chimes. My sister and I both loved wind chimes, and this seemed the perfect gift. My mom requested “Amazing Grace” for the memorial service, and the chimes are tuned to the hymn. I don’t know how that will sound, but it can’t sound bad. It’s a beautiful hymn. My own chimes are tuned to some other tune and are getting quite the workout this morning as another cold front barrels through.

I have the happiest memory sitting on my sister’s front porch chatting while wind chimes spun and sang all around us. Whenever I hear mine, I will think of her.

I’m closing comments on this post. I hope you understand. I love you all, and I hope this helps someone who might need it.