When the Flowers Die

I stood by the compost box at the back of our yard, staring at the wilted roses and lilies I had just tossed inside. Only a few days ago these same flowers had been at the center of our dining room table, bursting with vibrant shades of pink and purple. Now they had been overtaken by a sorrowful shade of brown, their petals blending into the rotting mound of food scraps, dead leaves, and remnants of last year’s grass clippings. 

Such an undignified resting place for an anniversary gift.

In the fifteen years that I’ve been married, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve bought flowers as a romantic gesture. I’m more drawn to personalized gifts such as homemade cards and hand-written letters. But since this was a bit of a milestone anniversary – and since it fell on a random Wednesday when both of us would be at work – it seemed like a good occasion to step up my game and orchestrate a little surprise delivery.

For the next week or so, I took pride in seeing those flowers in our house whenever I walked past them. I enjoyed the way they brightened the room, I enjoyed the happiness they brought my wife, and I enjoyed their visual reminder of the love we’ve forged over the last decade and a half of being married.

But if I’m being honest, what I enjoyed most about the flowers was the permission they gave me to pat myself on the back. I could almost hear them whispering admiringly whenever I entered the room, “There he is! There’s the thoughtful husband who bought us! So chivalrous! So generous! So full of romantic initiative!” Ostensibly, the flowers were a gift for my wife. Realistically, they were just as much a trophy of self-validation for my own fragile ego.

Maybe that explains why I was so unsettled to see this once-vivid bouquet in such a pathetic state, scattered haphazardly atop a pile of refuse. There was something grotesque about the symbolism of the whole thing. I felt like an actor throwing away his Oscar or a musician tossing out his Grammy. Even though I knew the flowers wouldn’t last forever, I was nowhere near ready to destroy the evidence of my marital excellence.

And that’s when it hit me. I could stand there and pout about having to discard the flowers I bought two weeks ago. Or I could go back inside and get busy buying some new ones. Not in a literal sense, of course. (I’ll probably wait another fifteen years for that.) But in the much more important sense of keeping a forward focus and seeking out new avenues to show my love. 

The temptation in the aftermath of any milestone is to slide into a state of complacency, to live in the past, to coast along on the momentum of one’s previous effort. That’s why a college football team might win a big game against its in-state rival, only to lose the very next week against an inferior opponent. It’s why a breakout band might wow the critics with their debut album, only to follow it up with a sophomore release that turns out to be a dud.

Relationships work the same way. We either give them our continuous attention, or else we watch them fall apart. 

Every single day, we offer our loved ones countless signals of our affection – words, touches, smiles, acts of simple kindness. And although these offerings are incredibly meaningful, they’re also incredibly momentary. We do them today. And then we wake up the next morning and we need to do them all over again. One “I love you” isn’t enough. One hug isn’t the only one you’ll need.

The dead anniversary flowers reminded me of this. They reminded me that marriage isn’t a static entity, like a piggy bank I can put a few coins into and then leave on the shelf indefinitely to keep my money safe. Instead, it’s something fluid and robust, like a living creature in a constant state of growth, regularly requiring fresh nourishment and intentional care.

Yes, it’s important to enjoy the flowers while they’re blooming. But it’s just as important to throw them out when they wither. Nobody wants to be caught carrying around a dead bouquet.

Want to support my work? Subscribe to my newsletter so you’ll never miss out on new content! And if you’re feeling extra generous, consider leaving a small tip using the form below.

Success! You're on the list.

These words are free.

But if you enjoy what you’ve been reading, feel free to leave a tip. This makes it possible for me to keep the website alive and continue making writing a priority. Just choose your amount:


Or enter a custom amount:


Thanks for your support!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: