I missed Jill’s funeral yesterday. Not that I had had much enthusiasm for a third flight back across the Atlantic for a funeral in less than 6 months. But I did want to be there to share the grief. To say goodbye. But in the end, as many expats find, the cost, distance and organization were too much. This is the cost of moving countries. Not just the expense in going home but the times when you can’t be there.
So while they gathered in London, in a beautiful church next to the River Thames paid their respects, then came together to remember at her house, I was thousands of miles away at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Centre in Austin Texas with my daughter.
It seemed a fitting kind of outing. A place that I know both Jill and my mum would have loved. Peaceful, beautiful, full of light and vibrant growing things.
And also, the quiet empty meadow still waiting to bloom and the stones where water has made more holes than you could ever imagine. The ultimate ‘holey’ stone.
When we got back home I went to check on the plants I bought in memory of Jill.
When Jill died I wanted to do something. Something to remember her. Something to acknowledge and mark her death.
I had googled ways to mark a death and there are actually many great suggestions out there.See this one 25-Ways-To-Honor-Memory-Loved-One. I particularly liked doing one of their hobbies even if you aren’t very good at it!
I immediately thought of gardening something both Jill and my mum loved. I went to the garden centre and bought two plants. It is a cliche, flowers and death. But growing things remind us that birth and death are the natural cycle of life. Even though mostly we try to ignore that fact.
I prefer buying live plants to cut flowers. I find the slowly wilting flowers on a grave depressing. But flowers opening have the opposite effect. They have me enjoying the moment, reveling in the visible tangible growth.
The first plant I got was an impulse buy. As I walked purposefully to the fruit trees a frothy mass of pink blossom caught my eye and then coming closer the sent was so sweet I just had to get it – Jasmine.
The second was the plant I came to get – a fruit tree. Jill loved fruit trees. When she came to visit when mum was dying she spent time picking apples and quinces in the garden. Her face fell so far on the station platform, when she realized she had forgotten her quince to take back, that my husband ran at top speed to retrieve it before the train came.
I couldn’t get a quince here. So then I thought about an apple tree, remembering the apple trees in her garden where I climbed as a kid and plucked and ate crunchy juicy apples. But I went for the peach because perhaps counter intuitively it seemed fitting to do something here I couldn’t in the UK. To successfully grow something Jill would loved to have grown.
Though, thinking about it now, I suddenly have a vague memory that Jill did have a peach tree. Memories are weird like that. But whether she did or not, I have one I bought especially to remember her by and as I sit now looking at its delicate pink blossoms I feel that happy sadness that comes from love and loss. The kind of happy sadness that you can get at funerals but also miles away if you look in the right direction.