Funeral Jeans and Cemetery Flowers

Do you ever have seasons of your life that seem to have a theme? One particular circumstance keeps showing up over and over again. When that happens, I ask myself what I need to glean from this time of repetition.

Several of my family and friends have buried children and grandchildren. It’s a hard thing for me to grasp and my heart aches for them. This blog isn’t about dying and children, though. Maybe later.

This blog is about a new friend of mine who buried her son almost 17 months ago. He died at his own hand, which seems even more sad, if that is possible. This story is a loose paraphrase on my part, so please excuse any fine details I omit here. I almost stopped breathing as she told the story, so I’m telling the parts that left a deep impression on me.

The day her son died, she was waiting for him to call so they could meet and buy new cowboy boots for his upcoming college graduation. She wanted him to have new jeans to be buried in, so she and a friend went to buy them. She says the clerk was rude, but also very chatty and rattled off questions before this mom could compose herself to explain – “What kind of jeans does he like?” “Will he use them for work?” and so on.

Yes, these are all logical questions unless you’re buying these dadgum jeans to take to the dadgum funeral home; unless this is the last pair of jeans you’ll ever buy your son.

Be still, my heart.

Later, the headstone had been set and she found herself wanting to buy some flowers for the grave. She was wandering in a fog of grief through the silk flower section of the local craft store, trying to imagine what kind of flowers her son would even like. She was having a conversation in her head about what kind, what color and if it was even a good idea in the first place. Her cart drifted to the center of the aisle and she mindlessly halted in front of some blue flowers.

She felt a bump on her rear end. She turned to see that she’d been nudged by a shopping cart. The woman driving that cart spat out, “Can you move over?” as she huffed past.

Be still, my heart, and Lord, please slap your hand over my mouth!

Folks, I can’t say it enough. We do not know what the person next to us is struggling with. They have a burden, guaranteed.

Do I think the jeans saleswoman would have been rude to a grieving mother if she’d only known? No.

Do I think the rabid cart driver would have acted like that if she’d known that these flowers were for a child’s grave? No.

But, we don’t know what we don’t know. Always be kind. Offer a helping hand with compassion and grace. Assume that the other person might be having a bad day or maybe they’re burying someone they dearly love…someone who chose to die…and there will be no answer to the Why?, no second chances and no turning back.

We just don’t know.

Suicide is a horrible reality in our culture today. The list of grieving families’ names in my prayer journal is, sadly, growing. These families have experienced grief on a level that few can comprehend. It’s heartbreakingly fresh as our dear family friends are less than two weeks into this terrible journey.

The mom whose stories inspired this blog recently wrote, “Time doesn’t heal. God does.”

If there was ever a time to start loving and forgiving those around us, this is it, folks.

(Photo by Tui Snyder)