Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Wild flowers for remembrance

Speaking as someone who lives next door to the village churchyard, I can be confident, that in Feltwell at least, flowers feature heavily in the way that we remember loved ones.

Bunches of freshly imported colourful hothouse flowers are arranged and rearranged by some of the graves on a weekly basis.  Traditional holly wreathes are lain every Christmas and every November brings a flush of remembrance poppies. Each family has their own way of remembering. Me? Rather than bring cut flowers to a memorial, I prefer to connect memories with the flowers where they're growing.

Bluebells carpet a woodland floor
A bluebell wood, no matter where it is, brings memories of  Nanny Brown flooding back.  As a small (ish) child we would walk across the fields and through the woods to Goose Green where the bluebells carpeted the woodland floor every spring.  Nanny Brown would bring a picnic and we'd enjoy our sandwiches and iced gems before traipsing home with handfuls of sticky stemmed blooms to cram into jam-jars on the kitchen windowsill.

Sweet Williams remind me of Granddad Brown and I always grow them in my own garden as a reminder of the times we spent together in his garden.  Tying wigwams for runner beans and grubbing around in the dirt harvesting new potatoes with my cousins.

Granddad Brown with his first Great Grandson way back in 1988

This spring I have sown a patch of heartsease, the wild pansy, in honour of an amazing gentleman.  We'll call him DW. DW passed away in October aged 93. A good age, no one can say he was taken before his time, and his was a life well lived.

DW, just like Granddad Brown was of a different generation and represented a better time.  A time when young men were taught respect, honour, tolerance and loyalty. They fought for their country, they worked hard to support their families, never even considering any reliance upon the welfare state. They were always well turned out. I never saw DW without his tie fastened just so and his boots polished.

I met DW when I was 30 and he was 70. He was a true countryman. He understood why bees are important and knew where to look for pheasants eggs. The weather held no mysteries for him, neither did the ways of man.  We worked together for 6 winters before ill health kept me at home. I had the healthiest respect for him, and for his "mucker" Percy.

Somehow, heartsease, the Victorian's flower for remembrence seems a more fitting tribute to DW than gaudy chrysanthemums or sellophane wrapped carnations. 

Percy was of a similar age to DW. they had both fought in the Second World War, although not together.  I never heard DW ( or Granddad Brown) mention their wartime experiences but Percy did once, and only once, confide that he had been captured by the Japanese as spent time as a prisoner of war. He considered himself lucky because unlike many of his comrades, Percy had 2 pairs of socks.  One pair protected his feet while they walked and walked and walked.  The other pair saved his life ....... He ate them.  Poppies are for Percy. 
Poppies remind me of an old friend who survived a spell as a POW

The Victorians invented their own language using flowers instead of words.  I guess I have done the same....in my own little way.

Plants are one of my favourite ways to remember people, occasions and special places.  Sometimes their scent will bring back a memory (new mown grass takes me back to Bayford Primary School when in summer time the grass beside our classroom window was cut by a tractor and gang mowers), sometimes the colour or the setting will remind me of something (or someone) or other.

I wonder - do plants and flowers help Alzheimer’s patients in the same way?

Meadowmat for Remembrance

If you are thinking of planting some wild flowers in memory of someone or something special, Meadowmat's Passchendaele Poppy Mix is well worth a look.  Not only is it stunningly beautiful and easy to grow, each sale will raise money for the Royal British Legion to help support people like Granddad Brown, DW and Percy.

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