May 27, 2015
Bob Goodwin was a good friend from Circle of Miracles – and my loving mother Claire both passed away in 2014. Both were “cheerful volunteers” with the Happy Flower Project. This Guest Opinion is a tribute to Bob and his devotion to his wife Hannelore. The newspaper only keeps the link open for 24 hours for free. They require a subscription to read the story after one day. So I have included the text below.
DELIVERING JOY AND FLOWERS TO THOSE IN NEED OF HOPE
By PATRICIA GALLAGHER
I deliver bright day-old flowers to residents of senior living communities — just as a volunteer doing random acts of kindness. I collect the lovely petals and blooms from Trader Joe’s every morning and then send a silent prayer towards the heavens and ask, “God, who needs the gift of a beautiful bouquet today? Show me anyone who is feeling down, who needs hope or a smile.”
My internal, God-inspired GPS leads me to halfway houses, AIDS hospices, chemo waiting rooms, nursing homes and even to random bus stops and train stations. In 23 months, I have had the privilege of being the deliverer of 25,151 “leave your cares behind” bouquets of fresh flowers. Many days, I have close to a hundred bouquets to pass out to strangers. And from the joyful looks on people’s faces, their problems seem to melt if only for the moment.
Recently, I went to an assisted living facility and walked into the dining room. The staff and residents know me because I stop by about once a month. I was there to pass out flowers and to visit my friend Bob. Before he was hospitalized last December, he was my helper taking the flowers to cheer up folks in our Philadelphia suburb community.
Now he is a resident in an assisted living and can no longer help me. As I looked at him, I thought that on this day, his spirits needed a little buoying. He and his table-mate Claire were sitting at the table talking about old Navy days, his career with U.S. Steel and his college days at Yale.
Now at age 90, Bob had a concern that was more pressing than others. He looked at me intently. His potato soup and bread were untouched.
“Trish, it looks like I am going to be living here permanently. My wife is going through serious health issues. I can’t think of any words that can comfort her. I need care now too and it is too much for her to have to worry about me while she is trying to heal. I don’t know what is wrong with my legs and I have to use oxygen some of the time. I am struggling to come to grips with all of these changes. It is an emotionally draining situation. It is part of growing older and the accompanying difficulties.”
“Bob, what is that orange pouch hanging on your wrist?”
“Trish, that is my crystal heart in there. It is just a felt bag and it symbolically holds my wife’s heart. Every morning and night, I take the crystal heart out of the bag and hold it and send my love to her. I ask God to have my love touch her in the way that my words cannot right now. I motion my fingers over it. I used to hang it on my walker. I didn’t want to lose it or forget to pray on it. So now I keep it on my wrist. I can’t lose it at night if it is on my wrist. It is with me when I am in bed.”
“Bob, that is the most loving thing I have ever heard of. So many people are separated from loved ones. In recovery houses, prisons, overseas serving our country, in hospitals and nursing homes.”
I thought of my dear mother who passed away on April 22nd, 2014. The three of us used to go to the Piano Bar restaurant sing-a-long on Tuesday nights. Then their health declined about the same time. Bob always sang patriotic songs and his number one signature song “When the Saints Go Marching In.” My mother did her favorite Patsy Cline tunes.
“Bob, what a great idea! I am going to buy a heart and ‘talk’ to my mother in heaven, too. I think we should tell other people about it. What do you want to call it?”
“Oh geez, Trish. ‘Hearts Away’ — that’s what comes to my mind right now. Sort of like when I was serving in the Navy in the Philippines. We used to say Anchors Away. I have her heart with me all of the time. Really my true heart is never away from her. It is just a sign of my love for my wife. What better way to begin and end my day!
Patricia Gallagher is the director of The Happy Flower Day Project. She raised her family in Richboro.
Phone: 267 939 0365
She welcomes interviews, speaking engagements and donations of any amount to help the project to continue.
Photo of Bob Goodwin, my faithful flowering volunteer.