I believe that there is a commonality in all of nature; there is beauty in all of life. There is a second truth; either beauty is fleeting or our appreciation of it is. After emerging from the water, the adult mayfly lives only for a day, the dragonfly a few months, however the Galapagos turtle is believed to live as much as two hundred years.
I know now that beauty is not increased by time and that it is so often a fleeting thing. There was a time in my youth when I ignored the signs of springtime, and when sameness appealed to me. I now pause to notice a well tended garden. I want to know the names of the birds I see around the pond and the names of the flowers that may do well in the shade or perhaps in full sun.
I now wait patiently for a goldfinch to come feed only to watch it fly away. I tend to the flowers in the garden only to have to discard the withered blossoms. I slip up to the bank of the pond to observe the flashing silver of a startled bass as it vaporizes into greenness. However, given time the beauty of more permanent things elude me. If even the paintings of Degas, were to hang in my office, they would eventually bore me.
It is altogether fitting and proper that we should offer flowers in tribute to those who have left us; those that we loved, those who loved us in return. Because in all of God’s creation, it is the flower that best symbolizes the goodness in fleeting beauty. And we do honor to our loved ones when we tend to their graves. But the honor comes in the act of doing and perhaps in the symbol of flowers, but not in the flowers themselves.
In an effort to add some measure of permanence to their token, mourners often bring artificial flowers to gravesides. And while their stems may remain eternally erect and while their petals may withstand any wind that may blow upon that hill, the rain will come, the dust will fly and in the face of the sun their colors will fade. Artificial flowers die too.
In our grief for those gone on before us it is natural that we should want to prolong our tribute to them. We wish our symbolic token to give visible evidence of the depth of our grief. The wondrous stone effigies and mausoleums in the Ironton Cemetery is an excellent example of the want in all of us to make more permanent reminders of loved ones now gone. But perhaps the greatest gift we can give to those gone on before us is to discard the bad memories and to recall only the feel of their hand upon our shoulder, the sounds of their laughter, or perhaps the feel of their lips upon our cheek.
Whether we place flowers, artificial flowers or build stone effigies by the graves of our loved ones, the permanence of these tokens cannot increase the honor that we may do them. Unless we are Puccini, Copernicus, or Shakespeare, it is likely that our lasting legacy will reside in the hearts and minds of those closest to us. The good news is that a good memory can be created in a moment. It can be made through an understanding smile, a lover’s gaze, or by standing up for some truth in the face of opposition
As for me, bring to my graveside a collection of pansies and rosemary; pansies for thoughts and rosemary for remembrance. Perhaps in the springtime bring to me a cutting of Forsythia, Dogwood or Redbud to lie at the foot of my grave. As you leave, they will wilt, but the wilting will not decrease the beauty that once was nor in someway reduce the honor that you may do me. Then walk away while recalling the good in me.
There is a monument of encased ashes near the cemetery plot of my grandmother, there is the grave of my childhood friend just over the shoulder of the hill; two young men taken too soon. But like dragonflies, the beauty of their lives is not decreased by the shortness of the time they lived. A fleeting life is no less beautiful. The wonderment of beauty is that it ever occurred at all.