My job, for the most part, is the all-purpose greenhouse worker; planting, watering, general maintenance, customer service and running to pick up my boss when *cough* his ruck breaks down eight miles from home.  But I also work in the adjoining flower shop when I’m needed; V-Day, Mother’s Day, Prom, Funerals, weddings, etc, or when the florist is not there and I need to take an order or make up a quick arrangement for someone.

Today was one of those days. The florist had to leave early. My boss was gone for a load of mulch. I was trying to get cabbages planted to 806’s (that’s Greenhouse People’s secret code for six-packs) and kept getting interrupted by customers needing assistance in the flower shop. A young, happy-looking guy comes halooing for me; he just wants a flower, maybe a single rose? He settles on lavender daisies and pink wax-flower. He’s very happy, cheerfully paying (a LOT of men are very grudging when it comes to paying for flowers. A lot.)  and I get the strong feeling that this small bouquet is momentarily to become a romantic gesture toward his sweetheart.  How cuuuuuuuuuuuuuute.

I love working in the flower shop.

Another lady comes in, an older woman dressed in yellow. She wants to order a piece for a funeral to be held tomorrow. I knew that several other orders had come in for the funeral she meant (small town, generally only one funeral at a time, thank heaven.), but I wasn’t WHAT exactly had been ordered; what type of flowers, what size, colors, theme, etc. She was quite interesting in knowing exactly what we had available and what we could do and wanted to make sure it would be nice, and that it could go on the grave after the funeral. I was in a bit of a tizzy because I felt sure that there were more baskets somewhere to chose from, but I wasn’t sure where. Also, I knew the florist had ordered in special flowers for the funeral pieces, but I didn’t know what. So I’m trying my best to sell what I know we have and give her an idea of what we can do, and I was filling out the order sheet, all official and everything, and came to the space where you fill in the card information.

“What would you like the card to say?”

Pause…

“I’m not sure. He was my husband. What do you say? What would you say?”

*             *            *             *

Pretty much, you could have knocked me over with a feather. There I was as worried that I wasn’t representing the flower shop as best I could and I might be flubbing up the order, when the whole time I’m going on and on, this woman is dealing with so much more grief than I can imagine.

I stammered something about not know, being sorry, we could just do a ribbon with the word Husband on it if she’d prefer, took her money and returned to the greenhouse fighting back tears. In a matter of minutes my normally quite uneventful job had shown me love and joy and expectation, then love and grief and loss. No other job I’ve had has had that ability, and I keep feeling like it’s the perfect illustration of something, and some lesson could be learned by it, but I haven’t quite figured out what that is.

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4 thoughts on “

  1. Oh wow. I’ve had things like that happen to me before too. Sometimes it’s obvious that the people walking into the shop need flowers for a funeral and they’re the family. But, occasionally it’s hard to tell and then all of the sudden I realize I’ve probably been being super insensitive because I had no idea THEY WERE THE FAMILY. It’s so hard to know how to be all the time. It even depends on the family. Sometimes they want to talk. Sometimes they want you to be cheerful and pretend nothing is wrong. *sigh* This job can be SO HARD SOMETIMES.

  2. Incredible story… Reminds me of a time last Christmas when I was working in a hardware store *of all places* and was joking around with an elderly gentleman who appeared to be in a very good mood. I asked him what he wanted for Christmas and he turned to me and said, “My wife died last week. I’d like her back.” Just like that, just as sincere as can be, and his old blue eyes got all watery. Even though we had both been joking around, I felt like a heel – THEN what do you say??!? Life is crazy…

    • I know, seriously! What DO you say? What do they expect you to say? Anything I can come up with is either cliche and insincere or too apologetic and would only make the situation worse.

      • I blurted out, “Wow. I know you’re not the hugging type, or I would give you a big hug!” I felt like a stooge the minute it came out, but he laughed and it was alright…

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