New York State Funeral Directors Association

A lady learned of a dear friend’s passing and read in the obituary – much to her dismay – a request that no flowers be sent.

She wondered why in a post on an online chat room, saying she planned to “comply” with the family’s wishes but “can’t help thinking that it’s sad not to give someone a send off with flowers.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Besides the fact that flowers add beauty to any scene, scholars have studied their effects and decided – for reasons they couldn’t pinpoint – that flowers make people feel better.

The lady’s note touched off a string of comments about why people ask for no flowers.

Folks jumped on the list to add reasons they or those they know have rejected these fragrant, petal-laden beauties at memorial services.

One person said their relative considered flowers “completely pointless” and they made her sneeze.

Another said the money could be better used by a charity – doing that instead was the “responsible” decision.

One said flowers don’t last long anyways – so they’re not an enduring gift.

Another said a family became irate because they asked for no flowers and they came anyways.

They were mad because that money could have been spent researching a cure for the disease that claimed their loved one.

One commenter said: “It's a situation where there is no right or wrong approach and families have to do what they think they would have wanted.”

These all seem like reasonable thoughts, depending on how you think.

If you do think about it – think about it before you pass away and let your family know what you decide.

That way you, the (future) deceased, made the decision and your service won’t rely on what others speculate you would have wanted.

For me, flowers at a funeral are not a gift to the family grieving the loss. They aren’t a gift to the deceased, either.

If you’re sending flowers to a funeral as a gift to that person who has passed away you missed the boat.

Give gifts to important people in your life while they’re alive.

And it’s obvious that the money wouldn’t help “cure” the loved one’s ailments since it’s time for a funeral.

I do believe there are opportunities to help a charity or special cause that can be listed in an obituary, but the funeral is an occasion in and of itself that I think should be treated as such.

A death isn’t necessary for people to donate to charity or support a cause or special research.

To me, a funeral is an occasion to be present for family and friends of the deceased; to recognize the life of that person and to share in the grief that those in attendance feel at the loss of this special person.

I believe flowers should be given to add color and natural beauty to the funeral event itself and to add something that makes people feel good.

You don’t tell jokes or do funny things to make people feel good at a funeral. Flowers aren’t an action, they’re just there, and they make people feel good.

FEELING GOOD

Researchers studied the impact of flowers at Rutgers University.

You can find references to their study, published in 2005, on just about any website that sells flowers.

Flowers, researchers learned, “rapidly induce positive emotion in humans.” Flower

They didn’t find a reason, but suggest evolution is behind the wonder of flowers.

Plants that have flowers – like any other living thing – naturally “want” to survive and live on.

So they evolved in a way that made them attractive, making it more likely their seeds would be carried elsewhere, continuing their survival.

The Rutgers University research relied on several activities, including giving people a box with something nice in it.

It was either some fruit, a scented candle, or a bouquet of flowers.

They didn’t know what was in the box until they opened it.

Ninety-percent smiled when they saw the fruit in the box and 77 percent of those who opened the candle smiled.

That’s enough for me to believe fruit and nice candles are wonderful gifts.

But what was odd for a scientific study is the fact that 100 percent of those who got the bouquet of flowers smiled. It’s rare to get a 100-percent anything during scientific studies.

It wasn’t a fake smile either, the researchers said – there are ways to tell.

For another part of the study, researchers measured the reactions of people entering an elevator.

Some were presented with a pen, others were just spoken to, and others were given a flower.

Those given a flower exhibited more positive social behavior, based on smiles, conversation, how close they got to the researchers and other factors used to gauge behavior.

The study’s third part focused on senior citizens broken into groups. One group received flowers more than once during the study period, the other only once. And another group didn’t get flowers at all, except for once the study was

over.

Before it began, the participants were evaluated for elements of depression. Once it began, they kept logs on their social interaction during the study period.

At the end, researchers determined that those who received more flowers were put in a better mood.

They also exhibited fewer signs of being depressed than they did at the outset of the study.

There are differing motivations for asking folks not to bring flowers to funerals, and I do, of course, respect those wishes.

But when it comes to my funeral, I am in full support of folks bringing or sending flowers – even if they cut dandelions from their backyards.

Flowers will make people feel a little better during this difficult gathering, so I am all for them.


EdsPhotoEdward Munger Jr.
Communications & Social Media Specialist
NYS Funeral Directors Association