Flowers akimbo in water.

Our modern memorials try to strike a balance between remembering the dead as individuals and honoring them in their community identity. We inscribe their names, we give them separate stations, but then we make the markers all the same.

It is left to the mourners, still among the living, to remind us of the unique personhood of each one who died through the most common and ubiquitous of rituals: the adornment of a memorial with flowers. Because flowers fade, we can imagine how recently the family or friends visited, we can picture them placing their offering, we are seized with the singularity of their loss.

Flowers, like people, are in some ways all alike. But that is not why we love them.

Left at the Pentagon Memorial, Arlington, VA

A Year Ago: House of Knowledge

Jefferson Building, Library of Congress, Washington, DCThe Library of Congress…
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