White Lily

At Hovingham Church in North Yorkshire, a pleasant spray of flowers was by one of the altars, in front of a large but weathered Saxon frieze. Although other flowers were present, lilies we seem to associate with churches and with funerals in particular. For that reason, one friend of mine refuses to receive lilies for they augur death, or so she is led to believe. In one respect, all flowers symbolise death, seeing as they began to die the moment they were cut. Yet it is strange that so bold and fine a flower should be a funeral staple. One floral site chirps:

Lilies are often interpreted as a symbol of the innocence that has been restored to the soul of the departed. A white stargazer lily symbolizes sympathy and any type of white lily expresses majesty and purity.

There is nothing majestic about death and dying, unless one watches too many war films or reads Victorian children’s books. Likewise, death claims us because we are far from innocent. Yet for the dying Christian, death leads to majesty and purity, though from its immediate pains and indignity we are not spared. Death is a dirty, stinking taxi driven by an ignorant, selfish cabbie, who nonetheless takes us to the stately palace wherein we shall thereafter dwell. Perhaps that is what the worn, Saxon sculptures are trying to tell us.