Celebrating a Friend’s Passing with a Garden of Flowers

Cliff House

My dearest friend Marilyn lost her partner last week. Gerry was diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma in January and battled it with courage and determination until he peacefully succumbed on June 29.

To celebrate his life, Marilyn invited family and friends to The Cliff House, one of Gerry’s favorite San Francisco landmarks. The restaurant has been perched magnificently on the ocean headland just north of Ocean Beach since 1863.

The day before the celebration, Marilyn called to ask my advice. She wanted flowers for the room but didn’t think fancy arrangements would be appropriate. She wondered if she could ask a few people to bring some flowers. I thought it was a great idea and told her that probably everyone who was coming would be thrilled to know that they could contribute in some way to making the celebration more special.

With that validation she wrote the following email to everyone:

Gerry loved flowers… wild ones, formal ones, bouquets from Trader Joe’s, anything. So, we thought that, in the spirit of Gerry’s love of flowers, we’d invite you to grab a flower, or a bunch, and bring them along with you. We will have vases and water and we think it would be a wonderful spontaneous garden for Gerry.

The results were spectacular. Everyone brought flowers! We filled the vases with the most amazing arrangements—pink and blue hydrangeas, yellow sunflowers, red roses, white star gazers, orange lilies, some homegrown and some store-bought. Each table in the room featured a unique “garden of flowers” and added to the joy of the celebration.

Although Gerry’s gone, I’ll always remember the wonderful spontaneous garden we created for him in that sun-filled room overlooking the ocean.


  1. Susan Adcox says

    Fabulous idea! I wouldn’t mind my passing being marked with such a party.