Carnations are red too

A Moonpig advert ( that has been constantly playing on TV today reminded us all to send Mother’s Day cards. For me, it was a bittersweet reminder, but more of this later. In any event, this put me in mind of the very first Mother’s Day I celebrated and consciously made my own when I was probably no more than 7 years of age. I was a sentimental child and wanted to make Mum so happy and so proud of being my mother that she would remember the occasion forever.

I clearly remember that it was an early Saturday evening that I made by Mother’s Day debut. It was a hot sunny afternoon in Singapore, where I grew up, and the only respite from the sun was the shade indoors. The sun was just setting, with rays of golden light making their way into the large open plan living and dining areas of my grandparents’ house, where cousins, aunts, and uncles met every Saturday for family gatherings.

The day before was Friday and a teacher had had some carnations in class which she had kindly given me. I had returned home from school with the precious carnations clutched in my sticky hands and knew that they would not last till Mothering Sunday. Besides, we all went to church first thing on Sunday morning, and then sometimes did not get back until mid to late afternoon. My 7-year old self simply could not wait that long!

So, when we went to my grandparents’ home on Saturday, I packed my white ballet dress and pumps, as well as the wide pink hair band that went with the costume. (I remember thinking at the time that I looked rather charming in the get up.) As all the cousins always went to our grandparents to play on Saturday afternoon and then showered before dinner, there were no questions regarding my little clothes bag, even though it was definitely bulging. My carnations were also safely tucked away in the bag.

Come Saturday evening and I was ready. I had washed and smelled nice. My hair had been combed and a pale pink hair band kept my hair neatly back from my face, which I knew my mother liked. My ballet pumps were on my feet, and the carnations were clutched in white tissue paper which my grandparents’ servant had kindly found for me. This was going to be my show.

With my cousins jostling behind me, I took graceful ballet steps towards the dining area where a huge table resided, and around which were my many aunts and uncles – 15 of them to be precise. Going up to stand before the table, I made a curtsey and started to sing a Mother’s Day song that had been taught us in school. Then I held up the skirts of my dress, curtsied again, and walked as elegantly as I had been taught by my ballet teacher to Mum and handed her the red carnations.

I still remember my aunts and uncles staring wonderingly at me. I had been accounted quite a singer in the family and as children, we used to play ‘concerts’ when we would get our elders to sit as our audience and hear us perform. However, what made be most happy was that my mother, who could be the sternest of all disciplinarians, had visibly been touched by my gesture.

I said at the beginning of my blog that this memory is bittersweet. My mother, now 76 years of age, has been suffering from one of the most debilitating mental illnesses –  Alzheimer’s Disease. She was diagnosed about 10 years ago, although her mental capacities had already been deteriorating a couple of years prior to that: it was the reason we had her see a consultant.

The diagnosis was a blow, but Mum showed a strength of spirit that could only be God-given. As she had always done for years past, so did she continue to do so after her diagnosis. Everyday she spent time with God, reading her Bible and praying earnestly. Sometimes she forgot that she had already read her Bible, so she would take it up to read again. Hers was a deep faith borne of a miracle that the Lord had performed in her life, which I will talk about in another blog.

We continued to see the cheerful Mum of old, although we also started to see more signs of this insidious disease. However, for many years, most people who met her could not believe that she had Alzheimer’s Disease which she would openly admit. We believe that our prayers and Mum’s trust in God helped to slow down the progress or at least the outward manifestation of her disease. In a stunning contradiction in terms, I would say that my mother’s strength of mind increased despite her rapidly decreasing brain power.

By coincidence, I found out tonight in Wikipedia that ‘Ann Jarvis chose the white carnation because she wanted to represent the purity of a mother’s love [on Mother’s Day]. This meaning has evolved over time, and now a red carnation may be worn if one’s mother is alive, and a white one if she has died.’ (But my mother’s carnations were red and remain red. That is how I will always remember her even though she has now forgotten me and cannot recognise my face.

Red Carnations

Fresh and beautiful red carnations, alive, thriving, and full of joie de vivre just as my mother was. Photo courtesy of

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