Friends come through with love, chaos and daffodils for a family in mourning

By coming together to "cover up" First Christian Church in daffodils in memory of a friend, a group of residents received an unexpected gift.

My friend Saundra Kilijian died last week. We weren’t close but she was one of my first flower friends when I moved here 10 years ago. We arranged flowers together for a few weddings and other events, we were in some of the same clubs, and last year I was thrilled to put together a prom bouquet for her granddaughter. So when Saundra’s daughter, Jenny Moss, called and asked about flowers for her mom’s service, I was eager to help. I think she used the phrase, “I want the church covered up in daffodils.”

friends arranging daffodils
Janice Bruce (left) and Dana Sandifer cut and arrange daffodils in the First Christian Church fellowship hall. (Photo by Martha White)

We have a flower farm and a lot of daffodils. The problem was, only a handful of them were blooming. So I called my best flower friend, Ginny Lawson, to plead my case, hoping she might let me pick some from her yard, too, and make at least a decent showing for Saundra’s service. Ginny had an even better idea.

Saundra and Ginny had belonged to the same garden club and sending out a call to action to La Petite Fleur members was just the beginning. I remembered that Saundra was also a Master Gardener and sent a request to our county agent Kelly Jackson who passed it along to the group. We contacted people from other clubs Saundra belonged to, and of course her buddies at First Christian Church wanted to help. Word was getting around: “Please bring any daffodils and vases you can spare to First Christian Church at 1 p.m. on Friday.”

My mind’s eye was now hoping for a display so overwhelming that Saundra’s family couldn’t help but see how many people had loved her and were touched by her over the years. See how my expectation had grown?

My husband and I spent Thursday going from friend’s house to friend’s house cutting daffodils. Even so, I had only about 300 flowers.

I was starting to worry that our vision was unrealistic.

ginny lawson with daffodils
Ginny Lawson helped put out the word for friends to bring daffodils to the church for Saundra Killijian’s funeral. (Photo by Martha White)

Early Friday morning, nowhere near the time we had set for delivery, a friend let me know that there were at least a thousand daffodils at the church already! After we arrived at the church about 12:30 p.m., even more daffodils poured in, and by the time we finished filling vases I’m sure we had gone through several thousand stems.

It was controlled chaos: Vases of all shapes and sizes. Thirty people crammed into the kitchen of the church, all sorting themselves into various specialties. There were arrangers, bow tie-ers, vase fillers, cleaners, placers and entertainers. And while we were all doing our special jobs, I heard so many stories about Saundra — about the many things she had done for others, funny stories and sad stories, her friends telling of the many ways in which she touched their lives. It was cathartic for everyone.

It was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life — to see so many come together to “cover up” the church in flowers for a dear friend and for her family. I will never forget it.

This is how a funeral service should be. People coming together to celebrate a life shared with others. Everyone wants to help when the worst happens, but often we don’t know what to do. This gave us all a purpose. And we felt so good doing it. A big thanks to Jenny Moss, who just wanted some flowers for her mom, for bringing us all together for a spectacular display of love.

She gave us a bigger gift than we gave her. She let us help.

Friends come through with love, chaos and daffodils for a family in mourning

Martha White, Guest columnist

Martha White is a retired librarian, and along with her husband, David Martin, they own Free Range Flowers at Martin Farm where they grow the flowers they sell for weddings and other special events.