The Lily Saga

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Too late, the Age realized the extent of its blunder in publishing my letter. They were swamped with people quoting the Bible. To 'kill' the story they rang me at home, did an interview over the phone and I found myself on page 3 the next day.

Digging up the lily's black roots

By Lyn Dunlevy.

Parents often go to extraordinary lengths to satisfy their children. But when an 'Age' reader, Mr Lee Kennedy, promised one of his three boys that he would find out why the white lily is associated with death he had little idea of the challenge he had taken on.

A scene in the film 'The Princess and the Pirate' in which Bob Hope, feigning death, falls to the ground holding a lily prompted the question from Richard, 6.

At first Mr Kennedy had little success. His letter to Bob Hope was returned with the stamp "moved not forwardable", the columnist Phillip Adams suggested that his son may like to know the origins of the pyramids and obelisks instead.

Melbourne's Anglican Archbishop, Dr Keith Rayner, quashed any religious connection between the flower and death. The comedian John Clarke suggested that since the deal was that Mr Kennedy did not have to answer his son's question until the boy's bedroom was tidy he keep shovelling junk under the bed.

The funeral company, Le Pine, provided Mr Kennedy with an umbrella, rulers, pens and a hat but no strong leads.

Still seeking a conclusive answer, Mr Kennedy petitioned 'Age' readers in a letter to the editor published yesterday. Neil Mitchell, of 3AW, asked listeners for their suggestions. Unfortunately, Mr Kennedy said he had heard most of the suggestions before.

A spokesman for the florist, Kevin O'Neill, suggested that the association between lilies and death dated back to the Depression when people could not afford to buy exotic floral arrangements for a funeral. They picked flowers instead and the flower most often at hand was the lily.

What then does Mr kennedy think he will tell his son? "A combination. I would imagine that I'm going to take the romantic line, the purity aspect in combination with the fact that it was common and cheap."

But he is writing another letter to Bob Hope.

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