The Etheridge Rose

When my grandmother on my father's side died in 2003, I wasn't able to travel to Cape Breton to attend the funeral, so when my grandfather died in 2006, I made sure to be there without fail, and I also made sure Niki was by side. I've always been very thankful for her being there to support me (I remember the morning of the funeral was especially hard on me, after waking up from an intense night-terror).

At the service, I had the honor not only of being one of the six pall-bearers among Palmer's grandchildren, but also to be a recipient of one of the four roses given out at the end of the service, the others each going to one of the three great-grandchildren who were in attendance. I've often wondered why I was selected to receive that fourth rose and I continue to come up blank. Perhaps because like those three, who were so very young at the time, I continue to view the world with a somewhat child-like sense of wonder. Maybe it was because I was dressed so spiffy in my pinstriped suit and bowler derby (the same outfit I would wear one year later at our wedding). Who can say for sure?

Niki had found a hip flask with a thunderbolt symbol on it and had given it to me for Christmas later that same year (one of my last impressions of Grandpa was of him having just a little too much whiskey at the family reunion, and my Dad and I having to each take an arm to help him into the house that night . . . it still makes me smile to think of that), and in that flask the funeral rose has stayed to this day. But I have always worried about the potential damage that could be caused to the rose, so I finally took the time to secure it within a shadowbox frame.

I included a picture of my grandparents when they were surely no older than I was when the rose came to me (electronically preserved and sent by my genealogy-buff, Aunt Helen) and a picture of the rose in full bloom on the day it was given to me (that photo was taken by my cousin, the incredibly talented photographer, Kelli Etheridge).

Now I can hang the entire ensemble safely, knowing that a random movement won't cause any harm to what I consider a priceless and irreplaceable family heirloom.


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