PORTLAND, Maine — What started as makeshift memorials in New York City by a Damariscotta native has evolved into a nationwide tribute to victims of COVID-19 using the healing power of flowers.
Kristina Libby started the Floral Heart Project for those who weren't able to grieve publicly for their loved ones.
Libby also an artist, has laid dozens of floral wreaths across New York City.
One petal at a time, from Times Square, rivers, and parks, the artist started the Floral Heart Project which turned into memorials.
Elise Bridge is Libby's sister, and even though she hasn't lost anyone to COVID-19, Libby wanted to use the healing power of flowers, not only as an outlet for grief but a celebration of life.
With the flowers provided by 1-800-Flowers, Libby is now is bringing the Floral Heart Project to cities across the US including Maine, for a National Day of Mourning for COVID-19 on March 1.
"It's hard seeing so many people suffer and I feel a lot of us are grasping find ways to help people," Bridge said.
For Melissa Harriman Staples, the pain of that loss is constant.
"Losing my mom was the hardest thing, and as I have told the group, we can't bring our loved ones back, but we can make sure their memory lasts forever or lives on," Harriman said.
Melissa's mother, Leone "Kitty" Harriman, was the 35th Mainer to die from COVID-19 a month after the pandemic hit last year.
She founded the Facebook group, Remembering Maine's COVID-19 - Every number has a name. It's also a forum for people to grieve their loved ones. It now has 3,000 members. Melissa, Elise and other volunteers have set up five locations, from Aroostook County to Portland where floral hearts will serve as a living public memorial.
With more than 640 Mainers lost to a terrible disease, a reminder that those left behind don't have to be silent in their pain.
One of the public vigils sponsored by the Floral Heart Project will be on Monday, March 1 at 4 p.m. at Lobsterman's Park in Portland. The public is welcome, social distancing and mask guidelines will be observed.
For more on times and locations in Maine for the National Day of Mourning for COVID-19 where floral wreaths will be displayed, go here.