Last Family Trip Before College

FlowerStory: Last Family Trip Before College

They wanted to go to Jim Morrison’s grave. Pere Lachaise cemetery was not too far from the famous Harry’s Bar where my husband and I had just ordered Sidecars. We were celebrating New Year’s Eve, and being together in Paris. The girls had Shirley Temples. Our eldest daughter, rolling her eyes at such a “childish” drink.

She was a senior in high school, and we were determined to make this family trip memorable, despite the girls’ bickering with one another, and their collective boredom of the Louvre. Soon she would be off to college, and our family was rearranging itself even before she left home. 

Snow was falling, and it was very cold outside. I left my gloves at Harry’s and I wasn’t about to go back for them. We were on a mission to a famous cemetery, and Jim’s grave was to be the highlight of our daughters’ Paris trip. Our last family vacation before college. It felt bittersweet.

As we approached the Paris Metro, I noticed a small flower shop; the windows were steamed. Through the foggy glass I saw colorful tulips nodding in the window. Our upcoming cemetery visit was the perfect excuse to stop in. The tulips were magnificent. I had never seen so many varieties! They smelled like hope, and they looked like spring. 

I clung to my flowers wrapped in brown paper as we navigated our way through the cemetery. Approaching Jim’s gravesite we noticed several gravestones, defaced with spray-painted directions to where the famous singer lay buried. 

There we stood, huddled together along with a large group of teenagers singing and holding hands. Several carried candles that illuminated the darkening sky. Someone played a boombox. Jim’s lyrics rang out, “Please believe me if you don’t need me, I’m going, but I need a little time…” 

I was much more affected than I had anticipated. 

We each placed the tulips on the grave, next to dozens of other flowers that lay covered with light snow. The purples and pinks of our offering looked stunning on the white tomb. 

Standing at the gravesite that day silently connected the four of us in ways I couldn’t have imagined. It was as if we were putting to rest our familiar old lives while preparing for the shifting family constellation that lay ahead.