Caducity: What I Learned from Dying Flowers

A flower is most beautiful when most open, and it is most open just before it dies.

Weird Words and Why They Matter

Photo by Kafai Liu on Unsplash

Had I not gotten allergy shots as a teenager, I might now be suffocating on the smell of pink roses. I am writing from my mother’s dining room table, where several bouquets past their prime live out the last of their fading glory.

A flower is most open right before its death, as if realizing it has precious few hours left. It spreads its pedals as if to say, “Don’t let me die before seeing all of me.” They are the perfect example of the caducity of life.

The Word

Though it sounds like a cartoon, caducity [ kuhdoo-si-tee, –dyoo– ]  refers to the weakness of old age and the transitoriness of life. The word immigrated to English in the 17th century from the French caducité meaning “obsolescence.” [1]

Why It Matters

Photo by Sarah on Unsplash

Our language connects aging with obsolescence, which speaks volumes about our opinion of it. Our culture and technology allow us to pretend aging does not exist. Hair dyes and Botox erase the signs; nursing homes and senior living communities put elders safely “out of sight and out of mind.”

As I inhale the sweetness of roses no florist could sell, I can’t help recognizing their beauty. They wither within a day, but does the caducity of their existence make them inconsequential, or even more precious?

Life doesn’t stop for death. Those roses are from my grandmother’s funeral. Even as I grieved with my family, I still had paperwork to fill out, emails write, and bills to pay. Life doesn’t stop for death, but the roses make me think it should.

I focus so much on getting through the day that I fail to consider getting through life. I am like a rose that hasn’t opened, focusing all my attention on my inward spirals, oblivious to the needs and gifts of others. Seeing these roses makes me wonder: will flowers perfume my funeral? If I am struggling, am I doing so with grace and determination? Do I inspire people or turn them away? Life is caducous; have I made it worth something?

Photo by Kien Do on Unsplash

A flower is most beautiful when most open, and it is most open just before it dies.

I don’t want to wait that long to allow others to see me.

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[1] “Word of the Day – Caducity | Dictionary.Com.” Accessed July 20, 2019.

Author: C.C. Hansen

C.C. Hansen is a writer and speech-language pathologist. When she is not working, she may be found with her nose in a book, her hands in a ball of bread dough, or her feet on a trail in the mountains.

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