by Father Mark Goldasich
“What are those?”
Little did I know at the time how this simple question would lead to a seismic change in behavior.
One of the practices I grew up with was going regularly to Mount Calvary Cemetery in Kansas City, Kansas. We’d always take along a container of holy water to bless the graves of our family and friends.
On the big feasts of Christmas and Easter, however, we’d haul something special along. For years, my mom would buy large, elaborate and costly holiday wreathes to decorate the graves.
This was always a major project and one that, I confess, I complained about a lot as I had to schlep these unwieldy wreathes from the store to the car and from the car to the graves.
One day, however, as Mom and I were shopping at Walmart , she suddenly stopped and asked: “What are those?”
In front of us was a huge display of silk flowers. I handed one to her to inspect: It had a plastic stem with four flowers on it. I could see by the smile on her face that Mom liked it.
Next, she asked how much it cost. “A buck,” I answered.
“What? This is only a dollar?” Mom said, shocked.
And that’s when the ground shifted.
“Why am I buying those expensive wreathes when I could be buying these flowers instead?” she said. “They’re so cheap that we can buy a whole bunch of them and decorate the graves at the cemetery lots more often!”
From that time on, never again did we buy another of those wreathes.
On Sept. 8, I headed to Mount Calvary Cemetery in Kansas City, Kansas, to visit my folks’ grave. It was the day before my dad’s 38th anniversary of death.
I thought for just a moment about buying a wreath, but reason prevailed. I took four bunches of “buck flowers” from Dollar Tree instead. I had a good talk and a good laugh with Mom and Dad while there.
We’ll soon be in the month of November, a time when the church asks us to remember those who have died and the country reminds us to be grateful for all the blessings in our lives.
You might remember a country song, “Roses for Mama,” recorded by C.W. McCall in 1977. It tells the story of a man heading to Florida for a couple weeks of vacation. He calls his mom and, when she asks if he’s going to stop by, he says he can’t as he’s really pressed for time.
On the way to Florida, though, he remembers it’s his mother’s birthday. So, he stops in a florist shop in Georgia to wire her some roses in Chapel Hill, Tennessee.
As he enters the shop, he sees a little boy standing there with tears in his eyes. The kid has promised his mom five roses for her birthday — you see, he’s 5 — but he only has a dime and can’t pay for them.
To make matters worse, the boy hasn’t seen his mom in about a year as he lives with his grandma. The man kindly puts the boy’s flowers on his tab.
The guy is feeling pretty good about himself since he remembered his mom’s birthday. As he’s driving out of town, though, he catches sight of the little boy kneeling by a grave in an old cemetery.
He stops and goes to the boy, who tells him that this is where his mama stays now and says that she thanks him for the beautiful flowers.
The man immediately returns to the flower shop. He asks if the flowers have been sent to Tennessee yet. When the florist says no, the man says, “Well, never mind. I’ll just take ‘em back with me.”
Honestly, that song can make a grown man cry. (I know.)
If your parents are still alive, make time to visit with them as often as you can and thank them for . . . well, everything. If your parents have died, November is the ideal time to head to the cemetery to remember.
And don’t forget the flowers. Take it from me: Get the dollar ones and you’ll visit a lot more often.