Every patient who comes to Hospice Austin’s Christopher House – upon arrival and every few days thereafter – is brought a fresh bouquet of flowers.
Lady Bird Johnson said, “Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” Flowers embody the mystery of beauty that one poet called “this grace wholly gratuitous.” They ask nothing. They simply give – hope, joy, solace, strength.
Thanks to the generosity of Whole Foods, we began placing flowers in our patients’ rooms in 2004. Our volunteers would go to Whole Foods twice a week and pick up the flowers that weren’t quite fresh enough to sell, but still had days of beauty and life. Those donations have started to wind down, but Freytag’s Florist has recently started donating their beautiful flowers to us twice a week.
Our flower program volunteers – known as Flower Fairies – come to Hospice Austin’s Christopher House on Tuesdays and Fridays, rain or shine, to arrange beautiful bouquets for our patients. The team includes Marcie Jarratt, Judy O’Neill, and Ellen MacDonald. Paula McCaul and Caitlin Cavin pick up flowers from Whole Foods when those flowers are available.
Marcie has been arranging flowers at Christopher House for more than 8 years. She says that every day that she’s there, a family member will say, “Oh, we just love the flowers, it helps to brighten our day and means so much to us.” Often, she said, family members will come in and talk to the volunteers at length when they’re working with the flowers. One relative from Florida loved flowers and plants so much, that he sent her some seeds from his yard.
Phillip Sadler, the volunteer coordinator at Hospice Austin’s Christopher House, said people’s faces light up when flowers are brought into the room. “They didn’t have to ask for it or pay for it, it just shows up,” he said. “They’re just so surprised and delighted.”
Phillip remembers the wife of a patient who was a florist. She would force herself to get out of the room and walk the halls. Even though they already had some flowers in the room, Phillip made an arrangement especially for her and gave it to her while she was pacing. She broke down in tears and they hugged.
Marcie said that patients and families are welcome to take the flowers with them when they leave. She once made an arrangement for a family who had no money for flowers for their loved one’s burial. Recently, she made a bouquet for a patient who got married in our courtyard. Even patients who spend all of their time sleeping receive flowers.
“I feel like I’m doing something for people who are in their last days on earth,” Marcie said. “Whether they can see the flowers or know they’re there, I know that they’re there, and that gives me joy.”
Thank you to Whole Foods for their years of flower donations, thank you to Freytag’s Florist for so generously joining our program, and thank you to our flower fairies for bringing gratuitous grace into our patients’ lives.