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Giving flowers to the living

Giving flowers to the living
Giving flowers to the living
Dr. Wayne Willis

Some will no doubt consider this idea morbid, depressing, narcissistic, weird, unprecedented, heretical or worse. We did it, and I’m so glad. I hope to live to see it become a trend.

There’s a country song recorded in 1960 by Foggy Mountain Boys Lester Flatt on guitar and Earl Scruggs on banjo that asked this poignant question, “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.”

About a month before my last birthday, my wife asked me what I would like. I said, in short, “No surprises. No gifts. I have everything I need. I would, however, enjoy having my immediate family come give me my flowers while I’m living.”

They came: brother, brother’s wife, our sons and their wives and our six grandchildren. After enjoying the matriarch’s sumptuous feast, we 15 sat in a circle in the great room. Our oldest grandchild volunteered to go first. Some tributes to the patriarch were typed and some were handwritten; some speakers used outlines and some spoke straight from the heart without notes. A first cousin 1,000 miles away emailed her fond memories. Our youngest grandson, instead of a speech, presented a cartoon of three panels he had created on the computer to celebrate our taking him and his cousin, our youngest granddaughter, to the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis for an overnight.

A daughter-in-law recorded the hour-long lovefest. Probably no one present will forget it. My 80th was the best birthday I could ever have.

American poet Berton Braley wrote, “If you think some praise is due him / Now’s the time to slip it to him, / For he cannot read his tombstone when he’s dead.”