A Sentimental Final Journey to Montana

This feature by Carol Marino originally appeared in the August 22, 2021 Flathead Valley Daily Inter Lake “Good News” Column.

As we made plans last spring for my mother’s funeral, we were lucky enough to find a florist in Cincinnati who was able to provide flowers as Covid-19 closed businesses and the availability and transport of myriad goods across the country. We hadn’t even considered that floral shops were having trouble replenishing their inventory. The funeral director told us he would see what he could do. 

When we arrived at Mom’s visitation a beautiful spray of white flowers (the color we’d requested) lay atop her casket and tall flower urns flanked either side, which were later carried to the church for her Mass. 

After her graveside burial, the cemetery director encouraged us (due to Covid, both Mom’s Mass and burial were limited to 10 immediate family members) to take home some of the flowers from the casket spray, also explaining that the deer would just eat them. We appreciated both her candor and the flowers.

I brought home a small bouquet, which we’d carried the 2,000-mile drive back to Montana. I found a place in the center of the house and placed it on top of a painting of Italy given to me by a close friend. A world traveler, Mom had visited Italy more than once. The bouquet has been there now for the passing of five seasons.

A couple of weeks ago I was doing some “purposeful” house cleaning in preparation for a mini-family reunion. As I was dusting the sideboard where the now dried bouquet of flowers lay, I thought that maybe it was time to let them go. After some mental and emotional deliberation, I made up my mind, but didn’t know how to go about it. I couldn’t just throw them away. I couldn’t toss them in the field. I didn’t want to burn them either. It was a delicate matter.

Mom had always planted plenty of flowers around her home. I decided I would place the bouquet in my garden and settled on a corner where African daisies were in bloom.

In her last years, Mom, who was 93 when she died, would often tell me she wanted to make one last trip to Montana. She and her husband had visited us at least once every year since we moved to Montana in 1985. Mom came traveling alone after her husband’s death in 1995. Mom loved Montana and never tired of its beauty or those family treks to Glacier Park.

I would tell Mom we would love for her to come visit, but now she would need to travel with a family member. Even though her mind was still sharp, her hearing, mobility and stamina were issues. I stressed to her that air travel was different now, that it can be all too easy to be stranded at an airport, or worse. She had even been stranded once on a tarmac for six hours with our two kids on their way to Istanbul for a Mediterranean cruise she hosted after our daughter’s high school graduation.

Well, Mom never did get the chance to come back to Montana.

But I’ll think of her every year as I plant the garden in the spring, harvest in the fall, and as the first snow of the season covers the ground.

In her own way, Mom is here in Montana with us once again. This time, forever.

Community editor Carol Marino may be reached at 406-758-4440 or community@dailyinterlake.com.

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