April 1st marks the beginning of Daffodil Days. The Cancer Society uses the sale of daffodils to raise funds toward research.
Daffodil Days began in Toronto in the 1950s. A group of Canadian Cancer Society volunteers organized a fundraising tea and decided to decorate the tables with daffodils. The bright, cheerful flowers created an atmosphere that seemed to radiate hope and faith that cancer could be beaten. Soon these gatherings came to be known as Daffodil Teas.
Jackie Brockie, a volunteer who also worked at Eaton’s, supported the idea of Daffodil Teas and arranged for Lady Eaton to host a Tea in the store. Seven hundred women attended.
Another volunteer, Lane Knight, arranged for restaurants to give part of their receipts to the Society on the opening day of the door-to-door campaign in 1956. Canadian Cancer Society volunteers were on hand at local restaurants to give patrons a daffodil as a token of appreciation when they paid for their meals. The sight of so many daffodils being carried around the city created interest. When some people tried to pay for the flowers or make donations, the Canadian Cancer Society quickly realized that the sale of daffodils would generate additional funds
Spring has always been my favourite time of year perhaps because it is when my birthday falls. I find myself looking for the tips of green poking through soil where snow has melted back. Looking at shrubs and trees to see the buds breaking open and of course watching for the birds. Chubby robins and elegant red wing black birds promising warm sun and sweet gentle breezes ahead. Spring represents promise and possibility and endurance.
Yet spring also holds two very traumatic events in my life. The loss of my father April 4th, 1967 and the loss of my mother to ovarian cancer March 27th, 1995. My mother was diagnosed when she was already stage four and the cancer already metastasized. She knew that the treatments they gave her were unlikely to do much more than provide research. Of course as someone with a great love for science it gave her purpose to play a part in that research. I remember sitting with her as they drew jars and jars of fluid from her abdomen in order that she could breath with a little less difficulty. Yet she always maintained that where there was life there was hope.
There were daffodils and other spring flowers in my mothers funeral bouquets. Roses seemed too ordinary, too fragile, too common place to represent the life my mother lived or the way she died. It was a bright spring day when I attended the alternative funeral home to make arrangements for her cremation and for her ashes to be returned to Scotland. Birds chirped gaily in the warm sunshine and spring gardens in all their pastel glory waved in the gentle breeze.
A few days later I was at the mall easter shopping for the kids and the Cancer Society was there selling daffodils. Strangely the simple tradition of buying daffodils seemed comforting.
Living in an apartment now I will miss the ritual of walking out every morning to see what else has sprung from the ground. The hosta, tulips, crocus, the wrinkled rhubarb leaves, the strong stems of the day lilies, the lilac buds and the trill of the red wing black birds rising up from the river, I will miss them all. I will grieve for the loss of my father at such young age-both his and mine. I will grieve for the loss of my mother and the way the family fell out after her death.
Yet I will continue to draw strength from the spring sun, I will listen for bird calls and I will continue my tradition of buying a daffodil.