Giving Others Their Flowers on Earth
+JMJ+ The unexpected death of Kobe Bryant last Sunday has thrown a lot of people for a loop. We are naturally saddened and in shock. To learn that his daughter and seven other passengers died too makes this an even greater tragedy and calls to mind the frailty and uncertainty of life.
It's strange that the death of a celebrity – someone who probably doesn't know anything about any of us - causes us to grieve. When someone like Kobe Bryant become a household name, we get to know them (well, a part of them anyway), we “follow” them and, when something awful happens to them, we grieve. Even though I don't follow basketball and even though I don't personally know any of the people who were killed in the crash, I still feel sadness over these deaths because, although we have hope of life after death, it's a sad reality. Unexpected deaths like that of Kobe and the other passengers on that helicopter remind us of the reality of life and death. Death will one day come to us all and we won't always know when it's coming. I know what it means to grieve the loss of a loved one and my heart goes out to the families of the victims.
The deaths of those passengers brought to my mind something my mother always says to me, "Give me my flowers while I'm still alive.” She's not talking about literal flowers. Rather, she is referring to the things I can do for her while she's still here on earth – praying for her, helping her when she needs it, showing her kindness, gratitude, and love.
Flowers are beautiful. I love flowers! I swoon at the sight of roses and hydrangeas. However, the reality is that those beautiful bouquets of flowers don't last and they eventually die. Whenever I go to the cemetery to visit my brothers grave, I often see flowers that friends and family have so lovingly left behind. It's a beautiful gesture - I do it too from time to time - but the reality is that those flowers do nothing for the dead. We often see mounds of beautiful flowers at funerals yet those, too, fade and die. We can give our deceased loved ones as many flowers as we want, but it's more for our benefit, not theirs. Flowers are a sign of respect and love for them, but that person can't appreciate them. They're gone from this earth. Only their soul lives on (either in Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory), and all the flowers in the world can't make up for any regrets we may have about our time with them while they were alive. The most beautiful bouquet in the world can't replace the things we could have done for people while they were alive. The most magnificent flower can't magically take away bad things that we have done to others or that others may have done to us. Life doesn't work that way.
I love my husband dearly. We will be celebrating 12 years of marriage this year but, to be perfectly honest, he's not a very romantic type of guy. Flowers, poetry, candles, music...that doesn't come easily to him. He does try in his own way and I love him for it! Now, he may not gift me with literal flowers on a regular basis but he gifts me with flowers in a different way. He works difficult hours so I can be home with our children. He helps out around the house and with the homeschooling. He knows I get nervous driving in busy traffic and so he drives me to my doctor appointments in the city. He leads our family in prayer and makes sure we are regularly receiving the Sacraments. I could go on! While my husband may not lavish me with exquisite flowers and gifts on a regular basis, he is actually giving me my flowers on earth each and every time he shows his love and devotion by performing any kindness or helpful deed for our family. He does all this out of love and not because he "has to." The flowers I give to him are, of course, a bit different because my role as a wife and mother is different from his role, but I try my best to show him how much he is loved and appreciated. Every time I lovingly prepare a nice meal, clean the laundry, say a kind word, support him, etc. I am giving him flowers.
Appreciate your loved ones. Show them love. Show them kindness and gratitude. Help them when you can. Pray for them always. Don't wait to help those who need help. Help them now! Your good deeds (however small and quiet) can leave imprints on the hearts of others and you never know what a difference those "flowers" can make in someone's life. A little love, a little kindness can go a long way. When you bless someone with love, kindness, empathy, gratitude, etc. it is never wasted.
Here's another really wonderful thing to consider: every time you give flowers on earth, you are building a greater garden in Heaven! The love you show here on earth, the goodness and mercy you show, the aid you give to others...it's like you're planting another flower in a garden in Heaven, a garden you will one day see for yourself.
Once someone is gone from this life, they're gone. There's no making up for lost time. There's no saying the things you always wanted to say. We don't know how short or how long anyone's time is going to be on earth. We can, of course, pray for the souls of those who go before us. We should never assume where someone's soul had gone after death no matter how good or bad they appeared to be during life (can we please stop canonizing people?). However, prayers for their soul won't necessarily erase the regrets we may have or to our souls of any responsibility we had for that person. What part do we play in someone's life? Are we their husband, wife, daughter, son, sister, brother, friend, priest…? Maybe our influence in their lives (or at least our prayers while they were alive) might have changed something in them for the better. God desires to work through us ordinary people and use us for great things in His Kingdom.
I don't like to sound morbid but, ever since the episode with my heart last summer, I've thought a lot about death. That scary night opened my eyes in a lot of different ways. It reminded me how fragile how life is and that our end may come when we least expect it. It reminded me to hold nothing back and to show love and gratitude to my loved ones now and not wait for "another time." Being so close to death myself and having lost loved ones very close to me has reminded me that, if we don't "live in the moment" and give them their flowers now, we may find ourselves living in regret later on.
Don't wait until someone's funeral to give them their flowers. Give them their flowers now while they are still alive...and do it with love! In the words of St. Therese of the Little Flower, "Our Lord does not so much look at the greatness of our actions, or even at their difficulty, as at the love with which we do them."