Give Flowers While They Live…

Pam Pollock
April 2021

 My emotions are all over the place right now and apparently so is my thought process.  Since November 2020, five relatives and 3 friends have died. Two of my cousins were my exact age – we grew up together.  Diane was always my protector throughout elementary, middle and high school.  I was a sickly, tiny little thing and was a magnet for bullying.  Diane was a scrapper – and boy, did she ever intervene on my behalf.  People quickly learned that if they messed with me, they had to face the piper with Diane.  She got me through those awkward years and I really wish I had told her just how much I appreciated her sticking up for me.

When my late father-in-law Strick was battling cancer in 1995, I felt hopeless.  I do not handle illness well.  I wrote him a letter telling him how much he meant to me and I likened myself to the character in the Pocahontas movie whose suggestion to everything is to whip up an elaborate gift basket.  This is me.  If you are crying on the steps, I will sit down and cry with you. Or I will bring you flowers and some chocolate.  

My cousin Scott, who is exactly one week older than me, died 3 months ago today.  His death hit me so hard in my heart.  He honestly was more like a brother to me than a first cousin.  Although he lived in North Carolina, we conversed almost daily via Facebook posts and private messages, texts and the occasional phone call.  Scott had a lot of health issues, but he worked so hard to overcome them.  Our last interaction was a week before he died and our last words to each other were, “I love you.”

Three weeks ago, Steve and I drove up to Pymatuning Lake in search of a Snowy Owl. We saw it through a spotting scope, very far out on the frozen lake and all we could really see was this blob.  We were driving around, trying to find a location on the lake that might give us a better look.  I received a text  from my Dad that our cousin Ted had died and then less than a minute later, my sister-in-law messaged me that my friend and former co-worker Tom had passed away suddenly.  I told my husband, “I’m done looking for the owl. Let’s go home.”

Much like Scott’s death, Tom’s was such a blow to me. We were young kids, barely in our 20s when we worked together at the Kwik-Fill Truck Plaza in Barkeyville.  We worked the midnight shift together and spent the nights laughing, pulling tricks on other people and talking about our families. Tom eventually started his own small trucking company with his son.  He posted a photo of his truck on Facebook two days before he died.  I “liked” the photo, but I didn’t take the time to tell him that I thought the truck was nice (and it is) or that I was proud of him.

We publish a column every month here in Movin’ Out called “The Circuit Rider”.  The late Rev. Robert E. Harris rode his horse and ministered the gospel to people.  His column for the month that my father-in-law died was entitled, “Give Flowers While They Live.”  This says it all.  I have republished that column twice since 1995 – ironically enough, in last month’s March edition of Movin’ Out. It’s a gentle reminder to me to spend time with loved ones and friends while we are both still living – to send a card or some flowers or a text NOW.  I wish that I had taken five minutes to  let Diane and Tom know how much they meant to me.

Give Flowers While They Live!  And I am not just talking about flowers here – spend time with your families.  Tell them that you love them.  No amount of flailing yourself over their coffin is going to bring them back so you can have more time with them.

I  found this saying on Pinterest and it sums up my emotions right now:

"Give them their flowers while they yet live. When they can smell the rose and hold your hand to receive the flower you give. Let them know you love them and say it putting a smile upon their face. Fill their days with moments at every second of their race. Give them their flowers while they yet live, even if their life you cannot save. They need and want to know you love them now not with flowers left at a grave.”

To my recently departed friends and family – all of you shared your friendship and love with me.  My vow to you is that I will strive to give “flowers”  to others who are still on this earth.

Oh, and that Snowy Owl?  Steve and I returned to the lake two days later and she was resting on the ice, right by the road when we arrived at 7:00 am.  She posed for some memorable photos and then left about six hours later, presumably returning to the tundra.