Lim: When you don’t receive flowers

Wide Awake
Melanie Lim.
Melanie Lim.File photo

My mother’s birthday falls on February 13, the day before Valentine’s Day, which is why she hardly ever got any flowers on her birthday from us because flowers during these times are at their peak prices.

It’s been almost six years since we’ve been laying flowers on her grave. It’s true. The dead do receive more flowers than the living because regret is more powerful than gratitude.

My mother always lamented that my father never gave her any flowers. And my father’s perennial defense was that flowers were not yet in vogue when they were young. “That’s not true,” my mother would mutter.

I’d console my mother—telling her that as my father probably spent all his money on trips to see her every weekend in Mindanao, he didn’t have any money left to spend on flowers.

But the truth is that my father’s position was indefensible.

For even if flowers were not yet in vogue when they were young, they weren’t always young. My mother, in fact, lived to be 89. And while it’s true that my father didn’t have much money, then, that wasn’t always the case throughout their lives.

So, my father eventually changed his defense to: I gave your mother all my money so she could have bought herself anything she wanted. It’s the same thing.

Well, actually it’s not. It’s wonderful when your spouse hands over all his money to you to spend as you wish but it’s not the same thing as him buying you something he knows you’d be delighted to receive.

You know how some people say they don’t know what to buy someone who has the money to buy anything she wants? I think this is viewing gift-giving from the wrong perspective.

When you give a gift, it’s not about whether or not the person you’re giving it to has the capacity to buy it for herself. It’s about you taking the time to think about what she wants, then buying it because you know it will put a smile on her face.

The gift delights but so does the thought, effort and process in procuring it. And that’s why while you can buy yourself flowers, it’s still wonderful to have someone buy them for you.

But love is not measured in the amount of money you spend on flowers. It’s better measured by the amount of effort you spend trying to provide for your family so they never have to want for anything.

My father, who is a self-made man, was not one to lavish my mother with gifts. But he worked hard all his life to provide for his family and to instill in all of us, the value of money.

Until today, my father tells us to be wise in our spending and to never stop working. Until today, we are a family who rarely spends frivolously, prefers practicality and embraces the mantra of spending below our means. Until today, flowers are still a luxury.

My father never bought my mother flowers. But he gave her the greatest gift and luxury of all time—his strength, his courage, his deep, abiding love till the very end.


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