Stop! Smell the Flowers

Smell the Flowers | Hansen-Spear Funeral Home - Quincy, Illinois

I find Monday mornings heavy.

I work on an inpatient intensive palliative care unit with 23 beds. Each morning we arrive to work, and have a team report, where we get an update on each person’s condition, including distressing physical and psychological symptoms. We are updated on the individuals who have died, and the ones that are being admitted.

On Monday, having come off a two day break over the weekend, and into the intimate place of witnessing the suffering of 23 patients and their families, it feels heavy. And yet, gratefully, I would not be anywhere else. I absolutely love my vocation.

This past Monday, upon leaving the morning team report, I walked past a small table at the front door of our unit and noticed a beautiful and striking bouquet. Twenty-four huge roses, of colors I have never seen in a rose – coral, cobalt blue, royal purple, bright yellow – stood on the table so boldly and so proud. They were surrounded by white, blossoming baby’s breath, and green ferns and a beautiful glass vase.

I stopped and sniffed. My nose was filled with the fresh crisp fragrance of rose and earth. I closed my eyes, and sniffed again. I paused. I actually stopped to smell the flowers, I chuckled to myself, this is so cliche.

In that brief moment that I stopped to smell the flowers, I thought about where the flowers came from. Maybe they were brought by a visiting family member or friend, for a loved one who was hospitalized. I wondered if the recipient of the flowers had died, and if that is why they were placed on the table at the entrance of the unit for all to see. Or maybe someone bought the bouquet simply to be displayed and enjoyed.

As I stood there contemplating the origins and meaning behind the bouquet, I wondered what those flowers brought into the lives of those who walked by. Like me, I wondered how many people stopped to smell them and admire their gorgeous blooms.

As I walked away, I saw the pharmacist and her student walk up to the flowers, pause, smell, and smile. They discussed the beautiful colors, and the scent. Later in the day, I saw a family do the same thing, commenting on the vibrant colors.

I’ve been reflecting on these flowers this week. For me they created a sense of awe and wonder. I even felt a sense of connection and to whoever brought them, and left them. Even to the other people who had also been struck by their beauty enough to stop and smell. I found a sense of belonging – to others who had experienced the flowers, but also to something much greater and much less amenable to words.

I discovered a feeling of deep gratitude for the roses and their simple gift as a moment of reprieve in my day.
In a world/job/life where there are sometimes no words that can do an experience justice, we look for symbols of love and beauty and connection. Hence, the bringing of bouquets and flowers. They say what words cannot.

It’s up to us then, the seer, to abide by the old adage reminding us to:
1. Stop, and
2. Smell the flowers

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