"Did you know that flowers have meanings associated with them, and that during the late Victorian and the early 20th century, both man and woman were always aware of the message they conveyed. Flowers are a part of the most important occasions in our lives. They are conspicuously present on any occasion of celebration and remembrance.
I remember Etta, a dear friend who lived into her mid 90s. I first met Etta during her early 80s and over the years we knew each other, she grew to treat me as the son she always wanted, but never had. During the last two weeks of her life, I remained in her homely presence 24 hours daily. She refused to go into hospital to die and I was the only person whom she trusted to nurse her. Each night and day during that last fortnight of her life, Etta's mind wandered in and out of the many years she had spent on this earth and the memories she had treasured since her late teens.
One night, three days before she died, Etta asked me to go to a Georgian book cabinet she had in her lounge and retrieve one of the old books therein that she wished to hold once more. As requested I found the specific book she had asked for and took it to her. She immediately asked me to open the book to page 24 and remove a pressed daffodil which had nestled between the pages for half a century.
The pressed daffodil cost nothing and yet, to Etta, it was more precious than any amount of gold. As she was too weak to sit up at the time and was unable to even turn the pages, she asked me to look through them until I came across a pressed daffodil which she had put there during the Second World War years after her sweetheart soldier had died on the battlefields; aged 24 years. I will never forget the fond and loving expression that crossed her face as she looked at her flower of remembrance and tenderly handled the daffodil. As I watched her, it was as though she was caressing the bruised wings of a butterfly that had fallen to ground. This was followed by a look of remembered sadness and the expression of a few tears as she realised that it would never rise again.
Etta passed away a few days later, still holding the pressed daffodil which signified her greatest loss over fifty years earlier and I ensured that she was buried with it. After Etta's funeral in the grounds of the Mirfield Methodist Chapel where she had attended for over 80 years, I looked up the choice of her flower which she had pressed to her heart fifty years earlier before inserting within the leafs of an old Victorian book. Knowing what she had told me about her soldier sweetheart, I realised the total appropriateness of her choice, the humble daffodil; a flower that is usually one of the first floral gifts every child buys the mother they love on Mother's Day.
I learned that the daffodil symbolizes regard and chivalry, qualities she believed that her soldier sweetheart possessed in abundance. Daffodils are also indicative of rebirth, new beginnings and eternal life. Upon leaving to go to war, Etta's sweetheart soldier and she swore to marry upon his return, an event that sadly was never destined to be. A single daffodil is also thought to foretell a misfortune, whilst a bunch of daffodils symbolize joy and happiness.
Flowers possess a beauty that even the blind can smell, the hopeful see, the child excite and the romantic pleasurably press for future recall. Often, our finest flowers are like garden friends who are always there to support us during inclement times. It is frequently the most splendid flowers that bloom more beautiful and ever stronger from the experience of their darkest moments.
After Etta's death, because I'd been moved by her tale of her soldier sweetheart (who was also called Bill like me), and their planned marriage that never came to be after the war, I wrote a poem entitled, 'Arthur and Guinevere' which can be accessed through the link below. This poem is dedicated to Etta and Bill, along with all those other brave brides to be who never married when their war sweethearts died in battle on foreign fields." William Forde: July 17th, 2016.