We do death really well. Cards like these tell me so. And so do the flowers. Any veterinarian will tell you about the flower phenomenon.
Let’s say I do a fantastic job on a case. A complex diagnosis, something rare and generally fatal, and after many hours of research (something that’s never billed to a client) I finally have it figured out. I go out of my way to obtain the right drug from an obscure source at an overseas university, treat the disease appropriately, manage a couple of complications that arise, and save the patient’s life.
The client quietly thanks me. Sometimes more effusively, but by the end it’s like we’ve run a marathon together and everyone is tired. Nobody talks about it again.
Let me take that same patient and euthanize him, though, and it’s very different. The client is sad but grateful for the way it is handled. And about half the time they send me a thank-you card. One in ten actually sends me flowers.
And that’s the flower phenomenon. It’s this weird upside down ratio of
what you expect : what really happens
When I was new to the profession I thought that if anyone ever sent flowers it would be a celebratory thing, like a life saved or a really good job done in surgery. I was puzzled to find that the flowers for death outnumbered the flowers for any other reason by a ratio of at least 20 to 1.
Moreover, they weren’t funereal flowers. We were getting bright bouquets of beautiful blooms that were the polar opposite of mournful. And I realized that these were celebratory occasions after all. They were from pet owners celebrating and commemorating the life of their friend, a life that I shared with them in a small way.
And they were also saying, “Hey, we know that was hard for you, too. We’d send cookies, but maybe you have a nut allergy; we don’t know you that well outside of the hospital stuff. But here are some flowers to cheer you up, and think about Norton when you see them. He really loved you, too.”
How do I know that? Because Norton’s dad wrote that to me. I still have the card. I still have all the cards.