Memorial Day started as a day to remember and honor the lives of United States military personnel lost in service. But like all national holidays, Memorial Day has morphed into something else.
Now, every year families get together and purchase mass manufactured (questionable quality) Memorial Flowers from big box retailers.
Now while, in my decade plus of working in retail, I have seen the quality of these flowers improve, they’re still expensive. Especially if you’ve got a lot of graves to cover.
This post is not about Memorial Day. This post is about how life and death are both expensive.
My Mother-in-Law, a widow, every year spends hundreds of dollars on handmade memorial flowers. She buys them for her husband, her son, and her daughter-in-law, who all passed in the years I’ve known them. But she also buys them for her siblings and parents, and a little brother (I think) she lost when he was very young.
She usually buys them for her In-Laws, but another family member took care of those this year, making travel and expense easier. She purchases these off one of The Husband’s cousins.
I recently asked The Hubs, “when your mom is gone, are you going to buy all these flowers and put them on yourself?”
His answer was that probably definitely for his parents and brother and sister in law.
When my mother passed, she was cremated. It was one of the things she said she wanted, more than once. She had a habit of not making her mind up, and she also didn’t want a financial burden put on us. And she knew that cremation was much less expensive than burial.
And I’ve been asked on occasion if I’ve felt like I’m missing out because I have no where to put flowers, or visit her. My response is always no.
Why? Because not only do I have what I like to affectionately call a shrine—a little shelf on the wall with her picture, a framed lighthouse postcard from a friend (hi, Selena), a figurine of the lighthouse where we spread most of her ashes, a small bottle of her ashes, and a really weather beaten Pepsi can—but I feel like she’s with me every day.
But also, these physical forms we walk around in, these squishy, fragile, sacks of meat with faulty parts and an expiration date, these are nothing. Even those who are not religious know that we do not linger here when our bodies expire.
And eventually there will come a time when we are each forgotten. For some it may take long, some are forgotten in a single generation.
No, do not buy flowers for to decorate a marble or granite slab of stone resting atop six feet of dirt. You might on day but a body in that box, with a full suit, nicely done hair, and makeup to hide the death. But eventually that box will hold nothing but old bones and ratty textiles.
Not only do I not want to be an expense or a burden while alive—at some point I’ll no longer be able to work and will be taking up space—but don’t waste your hard earned money on something I’ve left behind.
Like a hermit crab out grows it’s shell and leaves it behind, once we die we don’t linger. So, unless necromancy becomes mainstream, compost me (unless of course state law STILL forbids it). Otherwise, toss me in an oven and roast me at 1400 degrees Fahrenheit until crispy.
Then take what’s left and do with it what you will. There are options.
Before mom died, she’d said, amount other things, to spread her ashes at a lighthouse. She had a particular one in mind but could never remember it. I know she’d have been happy with where we chose.
But, I also think, that despite her desire to not have money “wasted” on her, she would have been perfectly content with the money spent. Because all four of her kids were under the same roof, and did something together, because of her.
Amount of Money doesn’t determine how much love there is.
Just because you spend hundreds of dollars on flowers, every single year, to decorate a stone above a box in the ground, doesn’t mean that you’re honoring that memory any better than anyone else. There are more meaningful less commercial ways to do it.
But as I always say, I’m no expert, and I’m no one’s boss (except The Kid, but that’s a post for another time). If it makes you happy, and you have the means to do so, honor the memory of your loved one how you see fit. Just don’t judge others for the way they do it.
And don’t wait until THE WEEKEND OF MEMORIAL DAY to do it and expect YOUR LOCAL RETAILER to still have what you want.
Thanks for reading!