Flowers Wither

Like many couples, my wife and I have discussed the value of flowers as a gift to express love.

Of course, a good arrangement is beautiful, and it’s culturally customary, and if you do some research, you can communicate a lot of great sentiments with the flower selection and color choice.

But they’re expensive, and they die quickly, and also they’re expensive, and then they’re useless and dead.

I’m not biased at all. These are objective facts. (/sarcasm)

My wife’s Facebook post of her gift, with an added sparkly filter.

As we headed toward my retirement ceremony, I thought about what I had seen couples do during their celebrations. Usually the active duty spouse gives the other spouse a floral arrangement or some similar token of thanks for all the support that makes being married while working in the military possible.

I certainly wanted to express my gratitude for all my wife has done and continues to do. People often ask, “Does your wife work?” And it’s like, “Yes, of course she does. She deals with four children every day while I’m sitting in my office or on a jet. She handles the whole household while I go off for months to fly missions somewhere else in the world. On top of maintaining and managing a home, she homeschools the kids – because she wants to, not because I’ve ever asked. I can go to work and focus on my job because I know I don’t have to worry about what the boys are up to, or what’s happening at home.”

For over twenty years of marriage, she has stuck with me through all the ups and downs and sideways corkscrews of life. When everything goes pear-shaped or when we’re flying above the storms, she is there, supporting and encouraging no matter what.

But flowers. They’re just going to wither. They’re going in the trash a week or two later. What’s the point?

At first, Jami and I thought about using something like the platinum-covered rose I bought her. Something that says, “Yes, flowers, but actually one that will last.”

Because, hey, eternal love and “not wasting money” and all that obviously super-romantic thought put into this expression of thanks (more sarcasm, I hope you could tell).

Later, Jami said, “You know, maybe it’s selfish, but I think I want some flowers. Is that wrong?” This is my wife, who is worried that after twenty plus years as a military spouse, it’s not right or perhaps too much for her to get the spotlight and a simple bouquet of roses and carnations.

“Of course I can get you flowers. This is your celebration too.” That’s what I think I said.

“God, I hope they’re not TOO expensive,” or something similar, is what I’m ashamed to admit I thought.

It wasn’t until I was standing in the room with chairs arranged and people filing in for the ceremony that my slow and stupid brain finally clicked into gear and understood.

Yes, flowers wither. Yes, they’re temporary. You can’t buy one and have it last, expressing forever the sentiment when it was given.

But that’s how our love works. It’s not an “I said ‘I love you’ when we got married, dear” kind of thing.

Love is expressed in the day-to-day decisions, the small sacrifices and acts of service, all the little things we so quickly forget which add up to a confidence and certainty that wow, this person really does like me.

Plenty of military marriages don’t make it. I’m not judging or assuming anything about them, but I know that my wife kept choosing, day after day, to show her love for me through consistent decisions and deeds that proved her commitment.

That’s all any of us can do to build a real relationship — keep doing the small things, the messy jobs, the hard decisions, the stuff we easily ignore in favor of something flashy or showy.

Love is expressed day by day. At any point, the relationship can wither and die if left unattended, if not nurtured, if not refreshed.

Maybe flowers that wither are exactly the right kind of way to say, “I love you.” Maybe I needed that reminder that saying it once with a big gift isn’t the same as saying it every day with small but meaningful acts of service and devotion.

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