The White Flower Club

On Sunday I became a member of the white flower club. When I woke up early on Mothers’ Day, the first thing that came to mind was that I would be wearing a white flower this year instead of a red one if this tradition was still active. All day long I kept thinking about that.

Let me explain. When I was growing up, on Mothers’ Day everyone wore a flower to church – and I mean everyone! Those whose mothers were living wore a red flower and those whose mothers had died wore a white one. Mama was not much of a gardener, but she did have a red rose bush that was typically in full bloom in early May. I remember being sent outside early morning on Mothers’ Day to cut three red roses – for Mama, my brother, and me. We were blessed to have my sweet grandmother living across the street from us so Mama got to wear a red flower also. But Daddy’s mother had died young. Mama always called my Uncle Doodle at Murphey Florist and ordered a white rose to be delivered to the house for Daddy to wear. So, off to church we went every Mothers’ Day and joined all of our friends also wearing red or white flowers.

I have not thought about this tradition from my childhood and hometown in years, BUT this year it consumed me all day long. Grief is funny like that; it hits you in the strangest ways.

Grief is funny like that; it hits you in the strangest way.

The past months since Mama died on Nov. 29th have been a whirlwind. I have literally felt like a hamster on a wheel that just would not stop spinning so I have been forced to keep running. The things that have had to be done – only those who have walked this path know what I’m talking about. The hardest thing is that regular life just kept happening, other challenges and heartaches presented themselves, all while I was just trying to survive Mama’s death and tackle my long list.  I wanted to scream – “wait, wait, wait!”, but that was not an option.

Just to illustrate – our son Rob graduated with his Masters’ degree in December – a happy occasion to celebrate. Our daughter, Mary Margaret, fell on the ice in Nashville on February 16 and crushed her ankle. I did just what my Mama always did for me – I showed up for surgery and became her side-kick for months – back and forth between Nashville and Newnan. And then – whew – my precious Aunt JoAnn Leavell – my other mother, died in March. This brought on another wave of grief and realization that “we” are quickly becoming “the grown-ups.” Can the world please slow down for a minute?

Life doesn’t stop to give us time to grieve; we have to learn to grieve and keep living. This life lesson cannot be learned ahead of time.

Life doesn’t stop to give us time to grieve; we have to learn to grieve and keep living.

The good news is that I am blessed in the midst of this unpleasant chapter of life.

Blessing #1  I just have one brother and the good news is that Theo and I get along! I know this is huge – not everyone has a good relationship with siblings. Theo is an attorney and has always handled Mama’s “paperwork” and that has been such a relief. He discusses things with me, takes care of the necessary communications, and keeps me informed! That’s a good deal for me. We decided to go through Mama’s house together – just the two of us. It took F-O-R-E-V-E-R. Initially we met every couple of weeks for a few hours. We took it room by room and had many trips down memory lane as we opened every drawer and cleaned out every cabinet and closet. Let me summarize – Mama. Saved. Things.

Blessing #2  I have said before that Mama was the most organized person I’ve ever known. She put a tiny number on the bottom of most everything in her house; then she made a long list describing the items – where they came from and what was the significance. Hundreds of items were cataloged and as we went through her things, with the list in hand, we were reminded or learned for the first time the significance. We now have treasures that came from all sides of our family – things passed down from parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great grandparents.  Thank you, Mama! What a blessing for us and our children.

Blessing #3  Mama’s house sold and we didn’t even have to put it on the market! An offer was made and we accepted. This was a huge blessing and what came with it was a deadline. For a month Theo and I met at the house almost every afternoon and stepped up our process of cleaning out and dividing. When friends have gone through this I never knew how emotional and physical and hard it is. Now I do. It has been exhausting.

I could go on and on. But I will stop for now. People told me that when both parents have died you will feel like an orphan. That feeling has not been troubling, but the realization that frightens me is the fact the “we” are now the “grown-ups,” the ones whose decisions will influence the younger generation coming behind us. At my age and now as an official member of The White Flower Club, I pray my choices and life will give honor to the Lord and to my parents who set a great example before me. Counting my blessings and acknowledging things I am grateful for each day has brought the best comfort in this time of grief.


4 Comments on The White Flower Club

  1. Alice Redmond
    May 13, 2015 at 9:16 am (3 years ago)

    Well said and oh, so true! I am so sorry for the loss of your mom and JoAnn…such great women! I still struggle with being a “grownup.” I will always be my mama’s little girl inside.

  2. Talitha Culver
    May 13, 2015 at 7:28 pm (3 years ago)

    Well said, Shugie! Having walked this same path, I can say “grief is a strange thing, coming out of nowhere at the oddest times in most unexpected ways”. The Good News is: we don’t grieve as others do who have no hope! We know we will see our loved ones again. Mother’s Day will probably always be a little difficult from now on but what precious memories and rich heritage you have.

  3. Mary Jane Tomlinson
    May 16, 2015 at 11:34 pm (3 years ago)

    Shugie, I wore my white flower to church Mother’s Day also. I was the only person that I noticed wearing a flower at all. When I was growing up it was a tradition in Gilmer as well. I became an orphan at 22 and it was a sad realization. When you lose loved ones life changes and grief comes in waves. At first the waves are huge but they get smaller with time. I’m grateful to our precious Lord who gives us comfort and hope. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I’m sorry about the loss of your sweet mother.
    Mary Jane

  4. kim antram
    May 17, 2015 at 6:09 pm (3 years ago)

    Shugie this brought a tear to my eye. Beautifully written. I am glad to know the white flower tradition and will wear one next mothers day. I’m so sorry for your loss . I am the matriarch of our family now and that is heavy at times. Missing my wise ones. Kim


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