Give Them Flowers While They’re Living
By Alicia Crosby
On Saturday May 4th, 2019, the world shifted for many people as the great writer and minister, Rachel Held Evans, transitioned from our world into the ancestral realm. I’ve long admired Rachel and am aware that her work has changed people’s lives, but it is in her passing and the swell of public lamentation that followed that I see just how much of an impact she had on this world. The hashtag #BecauseOfRHE powerfully captures testimony after testimony of how Rachel’s words, solidarity, kindness, and invitations into relationship bettered, enriched, and sometimes even saved the lives and faiths of masses of people.
Pouring over the reflections offered by her friends, fans, and admirers in these past weeks has been moving and thought-provoking. I’ve wept seeing how much Rachel clearly embodied and expressed love and what that meant to and for others. These precious stories of her influence stirred something deep in me—and made me long to tell the people who’ve changed my life how much they’ve meant to me, and still mean to me, as I journey. My feelings made me consider what it could mean to give people their flowers while they’re still here.
The hashtag #BecauseOfRHE powerfully captures testimony after testimony of how Rachel’s words, solidarity, kindness, and invitations into relationship bettered, enriched, and sometimes even saved the lives and faiths of masses of people.
I think we know that it’s never too late to reflect on the life, witness, and work of another and celebrate them, but rarely are we encouraged to think of the other side of that coin—it’s also never too early. Much of the culture I’ve witnessed around the concept of tribute signals to me that we should wait to celebrate the contributions of others. But the temporal nature of life doesn’t always grant us the opportunity to do this while they’re on this side of glory. We too often assume there’s always going to be time and opportunity to say what we want to say. But I write this from a place where I am lamenting not telling a wonderful woman that I admired her and appreciate how her influence in the world blessed people I know and love in some really profound ways.
So my encouragement to you today is to think about those whose lives directly or even indirectly bless or impact you, and then consider how you might tell them of the ways their presence makes a difference.
There are writers who offer up words that give us hope and help us feel known.
There are speakers whose oration moves us to tears because they illuminate truths we’ve only dared to whisper to ourselves.
There are folks working tirelessly for liberation in ways that alleviate the suffering of the oppressions that bear down on us.
Whatever their vocation and however they extend their gifts to us, these people make our days a little more just, a tad more bearable, and a bit brighter by virtue of their being.
What would it mean to give people their flowers while they’re still here?
What could it mean for you to find ways to express that? How can you tangibly make known what the presence and work of another means to and for you?
These flowers, these affirmations, can serve as motivation for another person to go on and remind someone why they’re committed to showing up in the world as they do. It can give the person on the receiving end hope, because in a world that often renders us invisible, an encouragement tells someone that they matter.
Friends, consider what it means to live into these words, famously sung by Rev. James Cleveland:
Give me my flowers
While I yet live
So that I, I, I can see the beauty
That they bring.
Take a few moments and write that email, make that phone call, pen that letter, send the text, and let someone who has blessed or impacted your life know what they mean to you. Receiving support and tangible manifestations of appreciation from those whose lives you’ve touched can serve as a buoy to help keep you afloat.
Know that I offer you these words as someone working to more fully commit to this myself, because I personally know this to be true. And because there’s a good woman who many loved, and were blessed by, that I wish I could have given flowers to while she was still here.
Alicia T. Crosby, M.A. is a justice educator and activist whose work addresses the spiritual, systemic, and interpersonal harm people experience. Through her facilitating, writing, speaking, and curating space, Alicia helps individuals, communities, and institutions alike explore and unpack topics related to identity, intersectional equity, and inclusion. This native New Yorker turned Chicagoan commits to justice seeking and community building through work with her nonprofit Center for Inclusivity as well as in her public speaking and writing. Follow Alicia’s other work on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram via @aliciatcrosby.