THE HAT LADIES CONNECTION
Around Christmas time 2009, I (Archie Burkel, Top Hat of The Hat Ladies), had lunch with a friend at a local restaurant. As we stood outside saying our good byes, we were approached by a fellow asking directions to a drug store. The more we explained it, the more complicated it became..unnecessarily so, since it was only a few blocks away, straight down the street.
I turned to my friend and said, “I don’t want you to read about me in the paper tomorrow. Take a good look at this man; I am about to offer him a ride.” Now mind you, he was not asking for a ride, just directions. But hey, this is Charleston, the most polite city in the country, if not the world. It was simply the right thing to do. One does things in Charleston one would never do in Chicago or anywhere else, for that matter.
So violating everything my Mother taught me and everything I taught my children about “stranger danger,” I invited him into my car.
I drove him to the drug store, waited for him to make his purchase, and drove him back to his point of origin, the Children's Hospital of the Medical University of South Carolina.. It was then he shared his story. He had come from Charlotte to be at the bedside of his friend's 17 year old daughter. She had leukemia and was barely clinging to life. It was her younger brother’s birthday, and they were trying to have some semblance of a party for him. He was on his way to buy some party goods when he asked my friend and me for directions. I asked the young lady’s name; he said, “Emily Rose.” I gave him my card and asked him to keep in touch.
About a week later, he emailed from Charlotte to tell me Emily Rose died. I wrote a poem about her, comparing her to a rose, and emailed it to him. He forwarded it to her parents. In turn, they wrote me a beautiful Thank You email. I have included it at the end of this page.
Meanwhile, I started thinking I could do more than write a poem; I could have a rose named after her, with a portion of the proceeds going toward cancer. Why not? They name roses after First Ladies. Why not? There are roses listed in the Jackson Perkins catalogue as “cause roses.”
Lo and behold I found there already WAS an Emily rose. I would not have to figure out how to breed, then name one. I started working my way through the red tape of the flower companies. The path was littered with thorns. I am still pursuing that avenue.
Meanwhile, in desperation/frustration, I googled the words “Emily rose” and up popped a variety of products with the name "Emily rose" in their title. They are on the Emily Rose Products page.
The first one listed is a silk rose with swarovski crystals, especially created for and named The Emily Lauren Rose. The Hat Ladies will wear this beautiful purple rose in their annual Easter Promenade down the historic streets of Charleston...the very streets upon which the connection to Emily was made.
By the way, the Lunch date with my friend was to have taken place the week before; she became ill, and we had to reschedule. Even as we got up to leave the Restaurant, I almost stopped in the restroom. But as my friend continued out the door, I decided it was more important to follow her out. It sure was.
Another postscript: Back in December '08, as I was fine-tuning the idea of using roses in honor of Emily Rose as a fundraiser for cancer research, I happened to be looking through an old Charleston Magazine. There inside was a full page ad for the ASCEND Foundation, publicizing its upcoming Gala in April. It had a picture of a child, and it highlighted its role in researching childhood oncology along with all forms of cancer. It was such a coincidence, I decided to make it the recipient of the funds from the sale of Emily rose products.
Fast forward to March '09. One of The Hat Ladies returned home from an extended stay in rehab. She was catching up on her emails and finally read about The Emily Rose Initiative and its tie to the ASCEND Foundation. It turns out "ASCEND" stands for her beautiful daughter Annie who died a number of years ago when she was 38 years old. ASCEND stands for "Anne Scandalios Ends Cancer Now Directive." So without knowing it, The Hat Ladies became linked to a cause and an Organization created by one of our own.......coincidence? YOU decide. But please read on.
THE EMILY ROSE
There's a new flower in God's garden,
It is called the Emily Rose.
Why it arrived so early
Only heaven knows.
It left its home on earth,
A beauty the day it was born.
It is the prettiest shade of purple,
With lush leaves and nary a thorn.
It has a beautiful fragrance,
As it was clearly meant.
Ethereal and delicate,
One that's surely heaven scent.
It now thrives in heavenly soil
Since from earth it did depart.
It now blossoms once again,
Having first grown within our heart.
A rose by any other name
Could not possibly smell as sweet.
The Emily Rose is the loveliest
One could ever meet.
Until the day we meet again
To celebrate a re-birth,
We will cherish Emily Roses
Right here on planet Earth.