Say it with flowers
Somebody told us recently that their grandmother, who seemed full of smiles, would always refuse to have white flowers in the house… When she asked why, her mother explained that her grandma’s first husband and infant little girl had both died within months of each other back in the 1920s and white flowers brought back too many memories of that particularly sad period. White flowers – usually roses or lilies - were traditionally selected as funeral flowers to symbolise innocence and purity.
Flowers have formed a part of funerals for many years. In fact, there is evidence of flower fragments surrounding corpses at ancient burial sites dating back to 60,000 BC.
Over the years, flowers also had a more practical role to play – helping to mask the smell of a body prior to a funeral and before modern refrigeration.
Nowadays, our families are likely to request ‘no flowers’ or just 'family flowers' at a funeral, suggesting, instead, a donation to a charity. This is because investing in lots of floral displays can sometimes seem a little too much and they would rather see the money doing ‘some good’.
Some friends or family might prefer to send a bouquet of sympathy flowers direct to the family instead – feeling that they will be ‘enjoyed’ a little more this way. If the person has been buried, they might wait a while and leave some blooms on the grave instead – perhaps to mark a birthday or anniversary.
Alternatively, somebody we spoke to recently had come up with a rather lovely idea of giving a rose to the deceased family. She pays a visit to a local nursery which specialises in named roses and says she’s come away with a Dorothy and a Marjorie in the past – which have made beautiful and long-lasting gifts.
Generally, close family will still buy a wreath or some sort of display of flowers though and we have florists locally we can recommend. If the family wants to, the majority of florists will be happy to spend a little time chatting to them, to get a feel of what would be appropriate for that person.
When it comes to the choice of flower – there are some which symbolise different things. In some mainland European countries, including France and Spain, chrysanthemums symbolise death and are used only for funerals or on graves. And while wreaths are the traditional shape for a coffin – many of our families today chose floral sprays instead.
Flowers can be a real way of symbolisng a loved one and what they stood for. One of our families had some beautiful flowers on a coffin recently in their loved one’s favourite football team’s colours.
Ann and her family recently commissioned a floral display in the shape of a penguin, as her mother adored them.
“Mum collected penguins and my niece would always buy her one for her birthday and at Christmas,” says Ann. “So, we decided to have her floral tribute in the shape of a penguin. It turned out to be a little larger than we anticipated and it wouldn’t fit on Mum’s coffin for the journey to the crematorium. So, without hesitation, the pall bearers sat it up in the front of the hearse with them. It simply wasn’t a problem.”