YELLOW SPRINGS — The United States has surpassed 500,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19. Though the statistics reflect national numbers, the reality of a lost loved one hits close to home. To honor those who have died, a local flower grower has partnered with a national organization to bring comfort and healing to those grieving loved ones lost to the coronavirus.
National organizations Floral Heart Project and Marked by COVID have designated March 1 as a national day of mourning for victims of COVID-19. In collaboration with the organizations, Laura Skidmore, owner and operator of the Village Flower Farm in Yellow Springs, will lay a six-foot long, heart-shaped garland of fresh flowers in front of the Yellow Springs train station at on Sunday, Feb. 28 to honor those who have died.
Though dozens of memorial events are happening all over the country, Skidmore’s event is one of only two happening in Ohio. The other is near Toledo.
“I have seen friends around me lose people they love, and I’ve seen friends have family members in intensive care on ventilators,” Skidmore said. “Their worry and their grief has really hit me. There are so many people out there I don’t know who have been affected by this. I want to give people a way to acknowledge their loss, to share their grief, and comfort each other, even though most of our usual experiences aren’t possible right now.”
Though some of her family members have gotten sick with COVID-19, none of them have experienced long-lasting effects from the virus.
“I consider myself very lucky that everyone in my family who has gotten COVID has gotten a mild case,” she added.
Despite the virus hitting less close to home, Skidmore has bore witness to her neighbors and customers who have suffered immense loss because of the pandemic. Often, her flowers and her gardens are a meaningful source of comfort for them.
“I had a customer last summer come in to the flower farm. It was her first outing during her recovery [from COVID-19]. She was trying to regain her strength, and came out to flower farm to pick flowers,” she said.
Skidmore had a conversation with the woman, talking about her struggles during recovery. At that point, even walking was hard.
“Walking around the flower farm was a good experience for her,” Skidmore said. “She came out again a few months later and I could see how much she had improved. It was really nice to see.”
Last fall, Skidmore held an event wherein people could come and plant their own daffodil bulbs. The bulbs were buried, accompanied by written messages about 2020’s struggles, as a symbolic gesture of growth and healing.
“There were so many stories of personal loss,” Skidmore said. “That people shared that with me, I was honored by that. It affected me to hear those.”
Sunday’s garland laying is not intended to be a formal affair. People are welcome to come and add commemorative items to the memorial, which will stay in place with a card explaining its purpose until Tuesday at 6 p.m.
“I want it to be something that gives some sympathy, some compassion to the public. A little bit of healing.” Skidmore said. “People are welcome to come Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday; lay flowers, pictures, whatever they want to do.”
The Yellow Springs fire station is located at 101 Dayton St.
The Floral Heart Project was started in April 2020 by artist Kristina Libby in an effort to help the community create spaces for public grieving and to share support for people suffering during the pandemic, according to a release. Since its inception, the project has scaled in partnership with national flower suppliers including 1-800-Flowers.com and BloomStudios.
For more information about nationwide laying, visit https://www.floralheartproject.com/covid-national-day-of-mourning.