On Wednesday, I sang at the funeral for Arlene, a longtime member of our community. I watched with awe as the flowers came in, one huge arrangement after another. Made of coordinated fall colors, they were perfect for Thanksgiving and I thought to myself: in their grief, this family is giving their beloved chapel a gift. Arlene is giving us a gift.
Today, the Chapel was spare as we began Advent, just a wreath and a giving tree, and I wondered what had become of all of those beautiful flowers. I hoped they had found a good home. As mass ended and we gathered for coffee and doughnuts, I was surprised to see the arrangements totally dismantled and the flowers laid out on a table, literally hundreds of them. Every girl and woman in the place held a bouquet in her hands. Walter, Arlene’s husband, wanted the flowers to go home with the people of the chapel he and his wife loved so. And it was a beautiful picture of how church is supposed to work. The flowers represented Arlene and her family and we each brought a piece of her into our hearts and homes today. She’s not gone.
I think about how Arlene will look in on the dozens of homes that hold her flowers today, in vases large and small, and bless us. I think of sweet Walter and how his heart swelled with pride at the idea of this gift his wife was giving, bringing beauty into people’s lives. I think of how the members of our beautiful community do something similar each week and actually all the time. We bring ourselves and our gifts and if we’re mindful, if we’re doing it right, dozens of people will leave church with a little piece of us. That’s how church is meant to be, I think.
And more than that, that’s how life is meant to work. What if we each brought a bouquet of kindness, empathy, encouragement, and service with us everywhere we went and made sure that it was distributed to those around us? What if we left a single flower with the cashier at the grocery store, one with the person who cut us off in traffic, one with a neighbor, one with an enemy?
We have a garden growing within us, flowers of all shapes and colors, and they are meant to be shared. During Advent, I hope to be mindful of Arlene’s gift and leave a little piece of me wherever I go.