When I started sorting through my mom’s estate, one of the first things I remember tossing was a corsage. The flowers were dried and faded. The ribbon and straight pin were still intact.

I remember looking at it just like every item in her house. Corsages were not going to make the cut on things to save, so it was thrown away.  

Little did I know how many corsages I was going to continue to find. For trivia’s sake, I would have kept count. With each corsage I held in my hand, I began to realize how important it must have been to her. The flowers represented a special occasion in her life.

If I had to guess how many corsages she had saved for me to find – it was possibly a couple dozen. She lived in the same house for 72 years and had many occasions to have been gifted with a corsage.  It made me wonder how many corsages came into that house during those 72 years.

I know I wore a corsage or two, and I have five sisters. There were proms and homecomings. Family weddings. Mother’s Day and Mom’s birthday. Anniversaries. Easter.

Photos from long ago often show the ladies with corsages pinned to their chest, and today’s prom-goers wear flowers around their wrist.

In my mother’s bedroom I found the last two corsages she had received from her family – one she had received on Mother’s Day and one from Steven’s 50th birthday party. She wore her favorite pink shirt to Steven’s party and somehow the corsage was a perfect match. We couldn’t figure out how the florist did that – it was one of those perfect moments when we pinned the perfect corsage to her perfect shirt.

Tossing those last two corsages was going to take nerves of steel.

As a person who has now sorted through another person’s belongings. I have had the chance to think about the things we leave on this earth. Someone is going to go through our belongings.

I remember cleaning out Mom’s purse and removing the important things first. Any given wallet may have a lot or a little cash in it. If there is a checkbook, that is saved. The lipstick – someone will look at the shade we chose to wear, and although it may be a new tube, it will be tossed. It took me rounds of figuring out where her belongings should go before her purse was ready to be given to the secondhand store.   

The day came when my sister Carolyn and I needed to sort through Mom’s bedroom. Her shoes and slippers were right where she had left them. I remember crawling on the floor from the bed to the closet and putting all of her shoes in a bag which happened to be a clear, see-through bag.

Carolyn should not have left her own shoes on the bedroom floor, for I didn’t know what I was doing and put her shoes in the bag to be donated elsewhere. Thankfully she found them before she even knew they were missing.   

A couple of things we learned from estate sorting: there will be stories to tell and there will be laughter.

When my daughters were married a few years back, it didn’t occur to me to order dinner napkins with their names and the date of their wedding printed on them. My mom went to a lot of wedding receptions and apparently it was important to her to keep the dinner napkin with the couples’ names.

Had I been thinking right, I would have found a small box in which to save the wedding-day napkins, for now I wonder how many I would have collected. Maybe it would be fun to read those names and the date of their wedding once again.

One thing I did save was memorial cards, and someday I may take the opportunity to count them. They date back to the early 1900s, so some of them were saved by Grandma and Grandpa Imm.

Memorial cards remind us that we are here on this earth for such a short visit – maybe a hundred years, and others not so long.  

There are those who send flowers to our parents when we are born. There are those send flowers when we pass away. Those who send flowers in-between are walking alongside us on our way home.  

I finally came to the conclusion that my mom knew the value of a corsage. She knew you had better don yourself with flowers, and keep them close to your heart. Don’t throw them away. There is great meaning in the flowers that were meant just for you.  

She knew how messy life can be, and you’re going to need a dinner napkin for the road, especially if you are married.

In the scrapbook that had been put together by Marcella Koerner, who had been engaged to my uncle, Lieutenant Gordon Kimpel, are two pressed flowers from Gordon’s funeral services in April of 1943.

Someone sent some flowers to Gordon’s service, and Marcella preserved them and put them in safekeeping in the pages of that scrapbook. She didn’t know she was saving them for me to find someday. For me to write about someday.

Those flowers were sent to Marcella when she was a very young woman. Someone in her life knew she would need a reminder that others cared for her. That others knew life is full of heartaches and challenges. Someone was searching for a way to remind her she is not alone on her walk home.  

At that time in Marcella’s life, she had not yet sewn the many dresses she was going to sew for her family. She had not yet cooked the many meals she was going to cook for her family. Life was going to be messy at times, and someone in her life knew that. Someone made sure there was a flower she could keep close to her heart.

80 years later, I found those flowers pressed within her scrapbook, and I cried. I cried those gentle tears that slide slowly down the face. The tears that let me know something just touched my heart.

The women of my mother’s generation were intuitively wise. They knew the value of a flower when they received it, and they knew that someday, there would be someone, who needed to see that flower just one more time. 

A rose and a carnation, preserved in Marcella Koerner’s scrapbook, since April of 1943. It appears both flowers were red, as a bit of the color can still be seen in both pressed flowers.