Wednesday, 4 May 2011


Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Today I did the flowers for my father's funeral. It was one of the saddest and one of the most lovely things I ever did in my life.

The dear Brother-in-Law nobly took me and the Sister down to Covent Garden Market at the crack of dawn. We walked about staring closely at tulips. It reminded me of my days working for a florist next to the Coronet Cinema. It was the flower men; they were just the same as I remembered. Men who work in the flower business are a very particular type (and they mostly are men for some reason). They are, oddly when you think what they sell, no nonsense, often East End or Essex, flinty, and unsentimental. It would have been no good telling them it was for a funeral and expecting to get a sob story discount. The way they see it, everybody dies, and it's six pound fifty for the hydrangeas, I don't care if you are the Queen of Sheba in full court mourning.

My sister has gone to the church to do the main arrangement. I am doing the small ones, from people. From me and her, from my mother, from my brother, who cannot get back from Bali, where he lives.

A very old friend comes round and sits on the side of the bath and squints at the roses, as I start to stick them into the oasis. I sense that she might be sceptical about the tulips. In fact she is thinking of a genius thing to do with the excess tulip leaves.

'Twenty-five years,' she says, after a bit. 'That's what matters.'

That is how long we have known each other. It is what matters.

Sometimes I forget my father is dead and then I remember and it is like being hit by a hard, rushing wave. I got one yesterday in the garden of the V&A, and the day before outside the entrance to Knightsbridge tube. I think that everything is relatively normal and then I remember nothing is normal at all. I have a slightly out of kilter feeling, as if I am doing a dance and am permanently half a crochet behind the beat. I have a suspicion that I am shouting, like a deaf old lady.

'Am I SHOUTING?' I say to the old friend.

'No,' she says.

'You know,' I say to someone else, 'that thing that people say about he had a good innings? People should never say that. It is true but it is the wrong thing to say. But that's what they do. They say: Oh, well, he had a good innings, in the tone of voice which means Oh, well, you won't want to do anything as dull as grieve or anything, will you. The tone of voice which they might use if they saw someone else get a taxi ahead of them, and would say: Oh well, another one will be along in a minute.'

'There should be a moratorium on a good innings,' I said. 'No one should be allowed to say it until at least six months have passed.'

'Even then,' said the person I was talking to.

'Even bloody then,' I said.

For the flowers, I took these:






And did this:







And this, which looks a bit funny because the peonies aren't out, but they shall be in the morning:





And this is the big one:





Now the bath is full of flowers because I must keep them cool and damp, and shower them with the shower attachment to stop them wilting. I don't know what happens when I must ablute.



I suddenly think: they are not funeral flowers. But I don't know what funeral flowers actually are. I just did the prettiest ones I could think of.

Might be another gap now. I just wanted to tell you about the flowers. Also: in amongst everything, and there really is everything and the kitchen sink, I still find time to miss my dogs. How idiotic is that? I think: they might have liked a good squirrel hunt in Hyde Park.

I wonder too about the lilac. I think: whatever else happens, don't let me miss the lilac. It did not flower last year, and I was sad about that until August, when I finally let it go. This year it is getting ready to make up for the lost season, and I think: I must get home to see that.


  1. Thank you for the flowers. They are truly beautiful.

    It's funny how excited I was to see a few words from you. I've been keeping an eye out.

    My tiny lilac - bush large, flowers tiny - is out. I'll take a photo.

  2. I agree that funeral flowers should be the most beautiful ones you can find. The bright pink peonies and the acid green hydrangeas are wonderful. Isn't it odd how cathartic it is to sit on the side of a bathtub arranging flowers for a funeral? You write about this stuff so well. Thinking of you.

  3. The flowers are just beautiful, and that's as it should be. Thinking of you.

  4. That wave...I got it each day as I woke up after Dad and then Mum, it's like for one moment the sun is shining and everything is normal and then the memory they have gone crashes in and turns it all to black...
    I adore the flowers, and think you're rather wonderful to have chosen and put them together yourself.
    And, I am still thinking of you, each day.
    Oh, and the good innings thing? it made me want to *punch* people in the face. Like if over a certain age it is OK that they have what the f***.

  5. The flowers are really beautiful. Such a shame they are for a sad occassion. Or maybe not... thinking of you at this sad time...

  6. The flowers are quite lovely, and it's a beautiful thing to do in tribute. My part of the world was rocked by tornadoes last week, and I'm just now catching up on my favorite blogs, so I just read about your father. I am so sorry for your loss. There really are no words. Happy thoughts coming your way from across the pond.

  7. Such beautiful flowers. I'm glad you have family and friends around you. Best wishes.

  8. Your flowers made me take a deep breath - for their beauty and for the sadness of it all. How beautiful should funeral flowers be? At my stepmother's wake there was the most incredible food - I still think of it now, years later. Sometimes I want to say to my Dad, '...wasn't that food incredible?' and then stop myself as it seems wrong to refer to the good when it is at an event that was bad. If nothing else, they will say '...weren't the flowers beautiful?' and that will bring some comfort. Keep strong. The dogs will be OK and the lilac will wait. And no - you are not shouting. Lou x

  9. Beautiful flowers and beautiful honest little outpourings. I think everyone who has ever loved and lost can relate to "that wave". I hope that you find comfort somewhere, somehow and soon because it is truly deserved.

    Bird x

  10. The white bouquet is one of the most beautiful things I've seen in a long time.

    I'd hope I'd never be so crass as to use the "good innings" comment but I'm inclined to think it's just one of the things that people say when they're not feeling very eloquent and can't just say nothing.

  11. The flowers are absolutely beautiful. Thank you for sharing them with us.
    Take care of yourself, you'll be home soon x

  12. Gorgeous flowers, as everybody else has rightly said. After 8 years the daily waking-up loss of my dad has turned, periodically, into wonderful dreams where he is back with me-- those used to tear me up something awful, but somehow these days I love to get even the slightest visit from him that way. I hope that some day this happens for you as well, the delight in seeing him briefly and feeling that he is with you. I am tearing up as I write this because oh, after eight years I still feel the loss, and I can't pretend that I don't, but the pain has grown less sharp. I also wish that for you. And I hope you have lilacs-- it's one of the things I miss the very most in Texas: we don't get them here. Thinking of you.

  13. The flowers are absolutely gorgeous. I was at my uncle's funeral on Wednesday, in Ireland. I am guilty of using the "good innings" phrase, I am afraid - sometimes when comforting others about my own mother's death (six weeks before my uncle). My cousin read this poem at his father's funeral - I feel it is appropriate to share it with you here. I like the sentiment of it and hope you will too.

    Miss Me, But Let Me Go

    When I come to the end of the road
    And the sun has set for me,
    I want no rites in a gloom filled room
    Why cry for a soul set free!
    Miss me a little, but not for long,
    And not with your head bowed low.
    Remember the love we once shared,
    Miss me, but let me go!
    For this a journey we all must take,
    And each must go alone;
    It's all a part of the master's plan
    A step on the road to home.
    When you are lonely and sick of heart
    Go to the friends we know,
    And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds,
    Miss me, but let me go.

    (by Robyn Rancman)


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