I’m so excited to tell you about how my Valentine’s Day plan went! So after my husband and I finished delivering flowers on Valentine’s Day, I spent the rest of the day in my workshop, making the posies for the Canberra Hospital. It was a very hot day and I struggled to keep the flowers perked up, and had to throw out some of the ones that wilted. Thankfully, I had enough flowers remaining to make 24.5 posies of my target of 25 (yay!) .
One unexpected thing that happened during the ordering period up to Valentine’s Day was that I had orders from people who wanted to donate flowers to the patients in aged care without ordering a Valentine’s Day bouquet for someone else. I also received an order from an anonymous person who bought a large bunch of flowers to be directed to the oncology patient with the least visitors. These gestures were really beautiful.
On the big day, I was happy to see a white cloudy sky when I woke up, because it meant it would be cooler and the posies would be ok. Accompanying me to the hospital to help me distribute the flowers were some volunteers from church—Amy, her mum Judy, and 10 year old Nate.Before we delivered the flowers, we sat in the café to write messages on the cards to go with the posies. We sat there thinking for a while about what to write, and looking up possible Valentine’s Day quotes to use. We finally realised that a simple message was best, and went with “Dear…, wishing you much love and joy this Valentine’s Day, from us”.
Flowers are all packed ready to go!
Amy, Nate and Judy- writing cards together in the cafeteria.
Once we were done writing the cards, the Canberra Hospital Foundation (CHF) representative, Caitlin, led us to the ward. She introduced us to Marie, one of the staff, who would help us distribute the flowers. We split into two groups to give out the posies; I went with Marie and Caitlin while Amy, Judy, and Nate went with another staff member.
The aged care ward was very different to what I imagined it would be. There was a very busy office/admin area in the heart of the ward, surrounded by rooms containing about four beds separated by curtains. The first person we went to was a man sitting on a chair next to his bed. Marie politely said, “We’ve got something special for you today!” His response was, “Flowers? What for? I don’t need any flowers. Give them to someone else.” Though I’d mentally prepared myself for the possibility of such a reaction, my heart sank a little at his words. Nevertheless, we left his posy on the table next to him.
We continued giving flowers to the other patients in the room (where they were well-received). Just as we were about to leave, the first man called out to us. “Can I say something?” Marie, Caitlin and I turned around, surprised. He continued, “These flowers, they remind me of my wife who passed away one month ago. She loved flowers.” His face and attitude changed after he said that, and we had a nice chat with him. Caitlin convinced him to take a photo with me, and he even told us a joke before we moved on.
The rest of the patients we gave posies to were happy to receive them. One woman was so pleased that she couldn’t stop smiling and staring at her flowers, repeating, “Beautiful” as she looked at them. She told me that she used to be a pianist and a ballet dancer and only retired four years ago. I’m glad I made an effort to make proper mixed flower posies for the patients, as I noticed a number of them reciting the names of the flowers when they looked at their posies: roses, lilies, carnations, chrysanthemum.
Another patient that made an impression on me was a woman who was in a room of her own. Her son was there visiting and he was wearing a yellow disposable shirt over his own. Caitlin told me that it was to prevent infections from spreading to his clothes. Marie put on one of the yellow shirts and gave the flowers to the patient. When the woman saw the flowers and was told they were from me, she looked at me from her bed with her hand raised, but she couldn’t sit up or say anything. I started chatting with her son and Caitlin, but she made an effort to draw my attention, so I decided to put on a yellow shirt and spent a little time with her. While we couldn’t really have much of a conversation as she had difficulty hearing and talking, I could tell she was really taken by the red roses in her posy by the way she reacted to them.
I feel like flowers spread a universal feeling of happiness from their beauty, and this visit to the hospital really showed that. Towards the end of my time there, Marie said that the patients’ faces were really ‘lit up’ by the flowers. Surprised, I said, “Really?” Marie’s response was, “Well, they certainly don’t look like that when I come in the room! Some of those patients will look at those flowers the whole day.” I also noticed that when I gave each patient the personalised card with the flowers, they were really appreciative of the personal touch, even though the message was very simple. Little Nate also provided some entertainment for the patients by showing off his juggling skills. He’s been learning from his dad and YouTube, and is very good at it!
It was a wonderful experience and I came out of it thinking that this is what Valentine’s Day should be like every year: sharing love with people who need love.
I have so many people to thank for making this happen. Thank you to everyone who helped me promote my idea on social media by sharing my posts, and to everyone who bought or donated flowers. Thanks to Lauren from Indigo Rose Design who helped me put some of the posies together while. Thank you to Amy, Judy, and Nate who helped give out the flowers and spent time with the patients. Thanks to Caitlin for my being contact person at CHF and taking these amazing behind the scene pictures. Thanks to my mum for being the financial safety net. And finally, thanks to my husband Greg for reassuring me that I was making the right decision, especially when I was feeling nervous about it, and of course to the CHF for the opportunity to make my idea into reality.