by Patricia Gallagher
Ed. Note: The cover story in Local Life on July 17 was about Patricia Gallagher, a Chalfont woman who is best known as “The Flower Lady.” Trisha founded the Flower Lady Project last year with the help of Bob and Hannelore Goodwin, who are both ministers at the Circle of Miracles Church in New Britain, PA. Tricia, who puts 100 miles on her car in an average day, picks up day-old flowers from Trader Joe’s that would otherwise be thrown away, and she delivers them to nursing homes and hospitals all over the area to cheer up patients. In many cases the flowers literally have a therapeutic effect.
My mother, Claire Mohan, passed away April 22 of this year in at-home hospice at the age of 88. Right up until the end she would help me deliver the flowers because it gave her life a purpose, which was to brighten the days of the patients. She could not go in most of time with me (but in the beginning six months she could), but she waited in the car while I ran in and did my thing.
Another man, Bob, who was 91 on July 23 of this year, also helped me deliver flowers. He is living in an assisted living place now, The Solana on Horsham Road in North Wales, and his health is failing. His spirits are pretty low these days. We had a lot of good times being the Flower People.
He needed a purpose for living, too, which was fulfilled by the flower deliveries. I loved listening to Bob’s stories about going to Yale University, being a Navy officer and his career with U.S. Steel. I think the story about these good people who have come along for the ride is very uplifting.
Bob, who really inspires me, and I would start out our flower caper adventure with a jolt of coffee from McDonald’s and a cinnamon bun. He often brought his harmonica along and played a tune as I passed out the flowers. I call these deliveries “random acts of flowering.” Every morning I send a silent prayer towards the heavens and ask, “God, who needs the gift of a beautiful bouquet today?”
My internal God GPS device leads me to half-way houses, AIDS hospices, nursing homes and even to random bus stops and train stations. In 14 months, I have had the privilege of being the deliverer of 19,451 bouquets of fresh flowers. Most days, I have close to a hundred bouquets to pass out to strangers.
Yesterday, I went to The Solana assisted living facility in North Wales and walked into the dining room. The staff and residents know me because I stop by about once a month. I was there to pass out flowers and to visit my friend Bob. Before he was hospitalized last December, he was my helper in flower deliveries.
Now at age 91, Bob had a concern that was more pressing than others. He looked at me intently. “Trish, it looks like I am going to be living here permanently. My wife is also going through serious health issues. I can’t think of any words that can comfort her. I need care now, too, and it is too much for her to have to worry about me while she is trying to heal. I don’t know what is wrong with my legs, and I have to use oxygen some of the time.”
I asked him, “Bob, what is that orange pouch hanging on your wrist?” He said, “Trish, that is my crystal heart in there. It is just a felt bag and it symbolically holds my wife’s heart. Every morning and night, I take the crystal heart out of the bag and hold it and send my love to her.
“I ‘Reiki’ the heart. I ask God to have my love touch her in the way that my words cannot right now. I motion my fingers over it. I used to hang it on my walker. I didn’t want to lose it or forget to pray on it. So now I keep it on my wrist. I can’t lose it at night if it is on my wrist. It is with me when I am in bed.”
I said, “Bob, that is the most loving thing I have ever heard of. So many people are separated from loved ones. In recovery houses, prisons, overseas serving our country or in hospitals and nursing homes.”
I thought of my dear mother, who passed away on April 22. The three of us used to go to the Piano Bar restaurant sing-a-long on Tuesday nights. Then their health declined about the same time. Bob always sang patriotic songs, and my mother sang her favorite Patsy Cline tunes.
“Bob, what a great idea!” I said. “I am going to buy a heart and ‘talk’ to my mother in heaven, too. I think we should tell other people about it. What do you want to call it?”
“Oh geez, Trish. ‘Hearts Away ‘ is what comes to my mind right now. Sort of like when I was serving in the Navy in the Philippines. We used to say ‘Anchors Away.’ I have her heart with me all of the time. Really my true heart is never away from her.”