Revisiting 41: roses for remembrance

A very sweet Twitter comment on my posting yesterday “Roses now, or roses later”, from London Sacred Harp (@LDNSacredHarp):

Read these beautiful reflections on singing from the #SacredHarp in the face of real and impending mortality, and Give. Him. The. Roses. We wish Arnold the most elegant and highly scented hybrid teas, blowsy cabbages, striped Bourbons, Titania’s sweet musk roses and eglantine…

(Clearly a message from a specific person, not from the London Sacred Harp singing group as an organization, but I don’t know whose actual voice this is.)

A lovely wish, understood figuratively — my little patio garden in Palo Alto is entirely unsuitable for roses (it’s mostly cymbidiums and geraniums, plus some succulents) — but it taps into two rose-related matters, one general (roses as remembrance gifts), one personal (two hybrid tea roses in memory of my man Jacques Transue, a red Mister Lincoln in Bucks Harbor ME (where his family has long had a summer place), a peach-pink Gemini in Columbus OH).

Roses for remembrance. There’s a European tradition of (cut) funeral flowers that takes different forms in different places and at different times, but certain flowers have been fixed as particularly appropriate. for the purpose — white flowers, including white roses, in particular. But at some point (I haven’t found any histories of the custom), the practice of planting roses (of all kinds) as more long-lasting memorials sprung up, and is now current in both the UK and the US. From one site in each country:

— from the Funeral Guide (UK) site, “13 Beautiful Remembrance Roses To Plant In Loving Memory”:

A remembrance rose planted in memory of a loved one is a living tribute that will grow for many years to come. Whether you’re looking for sympathy gifts, or creating a garden space dedicated in fond memory, you’ll surely find the perfect memorial rose for remembering someone special amid our pick of beautiful blooms.

— from the Heirloom Roses site, “Memorial and Remembrance Roses: Honoring Those We’ve Lost”


Mourning the loss of someone gone too soon is never easy. Our collection of memorial and remembrance roses and products are here to offer sympathy and start the healing process as you honor them.

Memorials are, of course, for the survivors, not the dead; they are things or practices to hold someone who has died in the memories of the living.

Jacques and his roses. Two bits from my postings:

from 10/14/12, in “Brief bio for Jacques”:

He taught many sections of OSU’s Introduction to Language course, until he was afflicted by brain cancer in 1980. He survived and then established a career of volunteer work (Reading for the Blind in Palo Alto CA, volunteering in the Columbus OH Park of Roses and laboring for a number of political candidates in Ohio) — until radiation-caused dementia brought him down.

from 9/8/14, in “I never promised you a rose garden”:

My man Jacques was a great rose fancier, and occasionally brought hybrid tea plants for our garden back from the Columbus Park of Roses, where he worked as a volunteer. The hardiest of these, and his all-time favorite, was Mister Lincoln (Swim & Weeks 1964):


A Mister Lincoln watches over his ashes in Maine.

Meanwhile, in September 2003 I established, in the Columbus Park of Roses, a rose bed (with a Gemini hybrid tea rose) and a memorial stone (IN MEMORY JACQUES H. TRANSUE), with annual maintenance since then. I just now realized that when I die the memorial will presumably die with me. Sad thought.

From the Heirloom Roses site, on their Gemini® hybrid tea (lightly scented):


No other continual blooming rose produces such constantly perfect and beautiful 5 1/2″ blooms (petals 25+). The color is a lovely blend of cream and coral on long cutting stems.

I don’t know when Jacques became not just a garden person, but specifically a rosarian, but his predilection was well established by the time we hooked up. Meanwhile, my dad was also a garden person (I caught it from him; it was a good thing to share) and had specialized to a few favorite plants, but especially roses, already in southeastern Pennsylvania, before my parents moved to California and he took to gardening with a whole new set of rose varieties, suited to the California coast.

Then came the moment when I confided to my father and step-mother that Jacques was not just a friend of mine they’d met and liked, but my lover and partner in life — and without a beat my dad beamed with pleasure and confessed that he’d always wanted another son, oh, not instead of me, in addition to me. And then he realized that I had brought him not just a second son (all grown up and requiring no parental maintenance) but another family rosarian, and he was truly delighted. J and dad could spend time in Arroyo Grande among the roses there, while Ruth and I talked about books and cooking and family.

(Carnality warning on what’s coming up here. Some might want to bow out.)

Rose symbolism. In ancient Greece, the rose was closely associated with the goddess Aphrodite (and hence love, and sex); then after the Christianization of the Roman Empire, it was identified with the Virgin Mary (leading, through a complex route, to the rosary — both the devotional prayers and the beads serving as an aide-memoire in saying the rosary).

Then in my 6/3/18 posting “The rose and the flames”, there’s a section on rose windows and their Christian symbolism; but also a section on the rose as a carnal symbol, quoting my posting from 8/29/13, “Kissing the rose”:

The rose — in particular, in the form of a rosette — appears frequently as a carnal symbol in pornographic writing, sometimes standing for the vagina but very frequently for the anus

(with examples, including a striking anal rosette from gay porn, in an AZBlogX posting).

There are just so many things you can do with a rose.

One Response to “Revisiting 41: roses for remembrance”

  1. Bob Richmond Says:

    A bit off-topic, but about spouse’s parents – my wife’s parents lived in the area of the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, and got their medical care their. In her ninetieth year her mother got the diagnosis of high-grade serous adenocarcinoma of the uterus. In her advanced age she had numerous co-morbidities, and the Mayo Clinic set up a day for her to see the several specialists who would decide what if anything could be done.

    Not surprisingly there were long waits between the appointments, so I took her in her wheelchair to see the Mayo Clinic’s marvelous collection of art by living artists, mostly donated by artists who were patients there. We managed to tour the entire collection that day, ending with a lovely choral concert by some nearby high school students.

    The doctors concluded that nothing could be done, and Mary was spared the death by chemotherapy a lesser facility would have offered. Indeed, we lost her in less than a year.

    Her memory is for a blessing. (I’ll voice that in the indicative rather than the traditional optative, thank you.)

    And yes, Mary grew roses, but we hadn’t talked about that much.

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