First published in Your Weekend 6.7.19
I stormed out of a florist shop last week. That’s a weird place to storm out of – all those soft fragrances and cheerful colours, and me turning on my angry heels and stomping out the door. I wouldn’t recommend it. It feels about as ineffectual as ending a call on a mobile phone with a vicious stab of one finger.
I had explained I was looking for table decorations for the cocktail party we’re holding for my mother’s end-of-life celebration.
Here’s the thing with me right now. Almost all of the time I function really well – host shows, get the washing on, and fill out forms for notifications of death with a level of sang froid that makes me wonder if I’m doing grief wrong. I’ll even set aside time for a good cry and… nothing happens.
And then at other times, like on the phone to WINZ to cancel her Super, my voice strangles and my face screws up. Grief is a wet stray dog who turns up uninvited and shakes itself all over your neat composure.
Which was the state I was heading into with the two florists when grief turned to rage. Picture The Simpsons’ Patty and Selma (honestly, they were dead ringers) ticking off a list of the many reasons my request was ridiculous, offering half-hearted solutions, quoting a price that wouldn’t have looked out of place on an invoice for a royal wedding, and ultimately suggesting I buy some of their jars and shove some flowers in myself.
To be fair, my dial is set to eleven most days. I’ve been told I’m less fun than usual. Voices have been raised and someone has been slamming doors. It’s all a bit messy and bears little relation to the sentiments on sympathy cards.
When I’m out in the world I feel like there’s a sign over my head saying, “Grieving”. A friend sent me a message saying they’d seen me at an airport and I looked like I needed a hug. Though anyone who didn’t know me might think I just look terse. Maybe that’s what Patty and Selma read.
I appreciate none of this makes me special. People die every day – 151,600 in fact. I googled it. That’s the kind of thing I do now. It’s like the whole population of Tauranga disappearing on a daily basis. Which makes my experience both unremarkable, but also worth a mention. There are a lot of people like me at airports and in florist shops.
I found another florist. They’re going to find my mother’s favourite mauve roses and arrange them prettily in bottles and deliver them to the party so I don’t need to think about that detail on the day. I suspect someone in that shop knows what this is like.