By Abby Dean
Seventeen years. I’ve lived seventeen years without my father in my life. I was only three years old at the time, but I still remember the influx of sympathy flowers crowding around our kitchen sink after his funeral. Flashes of memory were all I had left of him: whispers of his voice singing to me until I fell asleep, an orange beard tickling my cheek when he kissed me goodnight, his form bent over a flower bed in the spring, planting away to make our new house a welcoming home.
It is that vision of him planting flowers that I reminisce on most. He planted orange lilies that bloomed in the summer, warming our yard with tiny bursts of sun. Those orange lilies were his favorite flower, and quickly grew to become mine as well. Their bright orange color always reminded me of his hair, and whenever they were in sight, it was like a reminder that he was with me.
The beauty of the lilies he planted is that they still come up, year after year, not in the spring, but in the summer. After everything else has bloomed and died, these lilies emerge from nothing and persevere. It is a reminder that when it seems like you’ve hit the end of your rope, there is more beauty left to uncover when you least expect it. That has always been my outlook on life in the wake of losing my father; living life to the fullest, even if it seems like everyone else has already bloomed - there is always more waiting for you, so make the best of the time you have.
Flowers are often an image that people decorate their bodies with through tattoos and art, which stands as a testament to their symbolism in our lives. In almost every important milestone in our lives, we can find flowers: weddings, anniversaries, funerals, graduations, performances - you name it. Flowers have embedded themselves into our culture in very personal and deeply meaningful ways.
These lilies hold a special meaning that only my family can see, and they have found a very meaningful place in our hearts. My sister and I both want to immortalize the sentiment we feel about the tenacity of these beautiful summer-blooming lilies by getting small matching tattoos of an orange lily together. Though I will not have my dad to walk me down the aisle during my wedding, I’ll be comforted by the orange lilies that will adorn my bouquet. Even though it has been 17 years since I saw my dad smile, the triumph of the flowers in my yard growing every year helps to bring a smile to my face and remember him fondly. Plants, like people, will come and go in this world, so make sure you take a moment to stop and smell the flowers every once in a while.
Abby is 20 years old and a third-year biology major at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. She originally hails from West Chester, Pennsylvania.
Photos courtesy the author.