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Who we lost KY: Christmas Flowers

WUKY is collaborating with Martha Greenwald, creator and curator of 'Who We Lost KY' a writing project where friends and families who have lost loved ones to the pandemic or a natural disaster, pay tribute and in some cases, say their final goodbyes. This week Laura Jackson of Fayette County reads Christmas Flowers; a story remembering her aunt, Becky Breece-Straley.

This is our first Christmas without Aunt Becky. She died on January 22, 2021 due to complications from COVID. Becky loved Christmas. If I close my eyes, I can still see her sitting at the piano playing the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” as we nieces and nephews crowded around her and sang along. That song has to be the world’s longest Christmas carol, but every year she obliged us even though Christmastime was her busy season.

Aunt Becky owned a flower shop in a tiny 4-stop-light-town, but she was a modern day florist, who could accommodate any request. She once even created an intricate flower hair accessory for a customer, just like the one Cher had worn on The Sonny & Cher Show. She was truly an artist who created dazzling fresh flower arrangements that everyone loved.

Each December, her flower shop held buckets of fragrant pine boughs, long stemmed-red roses, and peppermint striped carnations to name a few. The demand was so great that she could barely keep up with the orders. So when I became a teenager, she enlisted me to be her assistant.

I was helping Aunt Becky one snowy afternoon when the greenhouse delivery truck made its stop. As the driver opened the giant door at the back of the truck, we were enveloped by the scent of thousands of flowers hitting our noses all at once. The mingling fragrances of gardenias, roses, lilies, carnations and pine branches created a heavenly scent. I was so happy when my aunt let me climb into the cool, damp truck with her while she made her selections. I had never seen so many flowers in all my life. There were hundreds and hundreds of metal buckets of colorful fresh flowers packed tightly from ceiling to floor. I will never forget it.

People still talk about my Aunt Becky’s festive Christmas arrangements, and I think that’s because she worked meticulously on each one, making it just right. To me, it was always a bit sad that those beautiful fresh flowers would only last a couple of weeks. But all these years later, I know that the feeling lives on long after the flowers fade. This year I will be sure to buy fresh flowers for my dinner table, and as I breathe in the scent of Christmas, I will think of her.

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Alan Lytle has more than 25 years of experience as a Kentucky broadcaster. Over that span he has earned multiple awards for anchoring, writing and producing news & features for WUKY. He took home the Kentucky Broadcasters Association's Best Radio Anchor award in 2021.