Vignette of Grief

 The Flower Merchant has a whimsical and welcoming back entrance. Green posts and an awning lead to a sign that says, "Come in--We're Open."

I'd come that day to place a particular order. A grocery store arrangement, no matter how lovely, just wouldn't do. This commission required a caring personal touch.

As I left the sunshine, I entered a shadowy hallway leading to the store proper, and a bright young voice with the hint of a northern English accent, called, "Hello! Can I help you?"

At this warm invitation, I felt emotions submerged deep in my heart begin to bob to the surface, but I contained them with the grit born of a stoic British upbringing. The flawless beauty of the face of the young woman behind the counter struck me as her blue eyes gazed into the stormy North Sea green of mine. A mane of soft golden reddish hair was swept back from her face, revealing perfect matching golden eyelashes and brows. She was a china doll--Ann of Green Gables in young womanhood.

I explained that I wished to order a flower arrangement for the grave of a dear friend and that it was to mark the anniversary of her death, a year ago this week. With kindness that threatened to undo me, she began to explain the options. So many choices--and I loved them all. I felt overwhelmed. "What colours did she like?" I clung to this straightforward question with the tenacity of a swimmer caught in a strong current and reaching for a branch.

"Pinks, blues--she loved pastels," I said, and as I thought of the delicate pieces of her china that I and many of her friends now treasure, we planned the arrangement.

Then, my next request, "I would also like a bouquet for her mother."

"Oh, is she buried with her?" she asked, a reasonable assumption after all.

"No, she's still alive," I said, and ignoring my twinge of guilt for unburdening myself onto this young soul, I went on, "she's in her 80s. No mother expects to bury her daughter." She nodded in sympathy and slid open glass doors leading to the refrigerated area where shelves of breathtakingly lovely flowers bore silent witness to the existence of a Master Creator and the glory of heaven-to-come. To make a choice though--impossible! I turned to her, "You are an artist--I trust you to make a stunning arrangement!" Her shoulders rose almost imperceptibly in confidence, and she assured me that she would.

I made arrangements for pick-up a few days later and said goodbye. "It's Samantha, isn't it?" I asked, proudly imagining that I'd remembered correctly from earlier visits to the store. "No, it's Charlie, short for Charlotte," she said with a smile, "But you can call me Samantha--I quite like Samantha!"

Our parting laughter carried me back through the shadowy hallway and out into the early evening sunshine of the parking lot. Now, with no social constraint remaining, my face and heart crumpled into grief. In the privacy of my car, I sat quietly, taking deep breaths, my heart raw with the missing of my friend. Grief welled like a wave, and I rode it. Then I turned the key in the ignition--other errands called.

But grief lingers this week--its presence merely the honour due to such a friend.


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