Flowers for Funerals: Around Since The Dinosaur Days

What goes with funerals?  Other than dead people, that is.   Flowers.

And did you know that this tradition goes back to ancient times?  According to a story at, in prehistoric times, in what today is northern Israel, people buried their dead "on a literal bed of fragrant wild flowers, such as Judean sage, as well as blooming plants of the mint and figwort families."

We, of course, place flowers around the funeral parlor room of the person who is being honored, or send them to the home of the deceased's family.  But the intent is the same, it would seem -- to ease the passage of the person from this world to the next.

The Web site reports that this is the oldest known use of flowers in "grave lining."  Radio carbon dating has proved that the grave sites are between 11,700 and 13,700 years old.

The work was done by Dr. Elisabetta Boaretto at the Weizmann Institute of Science, who was part of an international team that performed excavations in the Raqefet Cave overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, which had been "inhabited by the Natufians, prehistoric hunter-gatherers who were widespread in the Near East."

My mom died a little more than two years ago and though she's buried in a cemetery in Connecticut that does not allow plantings of any kind, at Easter I needed her grave to have something living at it.  So I bought a small blue (my mother's favorite color) hydrangea and planted it right by her headstone on Saturday, and I don't know whether it was the feeling of my fingers in the dirt, in the earth, or the mere act itself.  But I felt so much better, even knowing that the plant most likely would be pulled out first thing Monday morning.

I drove by the cemetery later and imagined I could see the blue blooms reaching up.  I felt like I was touching my mother.  Of course, when I went by a few days later, the plant was nowhere to be found.  But it brought me great peace to do it, more than just leaving some dying fresh flowers on the grave.


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