English singer, songwriter and record producer Ed Sheeran just released his new album, “Divide,” this past March. The musical genre of the album is pop. However, Sheeran decided to include an emotional tribute to his grandmother in one of the songs. Titled “Supermarket Flowers,” the song is written from the perspective of Sheeran’s mother, who is preparing for the death of her mom. She is described to the listener in the first person, going through all the mundane arrangements that accompany a death.
I took the supermarket flowers from the windowsill
I threw the day old tea from the cup
Packed up the photo album Matthew had made
Memories of a life that’s been loved.
Took the get-well-soon cards and stuffed animals
Poured the old ginger beer down the sink
Dad always told me, “Don’t you cry when you’re down,”
But mum, there’s a tear every time that I blink.
Although Sheeran recognizes the pain and devastation that can overcome those who have lost a loved one, he also adds bits and pieces of hope to the song.
Oh, I’m in pieces, it’s tearing me up, but I know
A heart that’s broke is a heart that’s been loved
So I’ll sing Hallelujah.
According to a recent interview with MTV, Sheeran claims that the song was inspired by his grandmother’s death. “‘Supermarket Flowers’ is about my grandmother. She was in a hospital near my house where I was making the album, so I saw her quite a lot while making [it.] And she passed away while I was in the studio. So that’s my first reaction for anything that happens to me, good or bad. Pick up a guitar.”
Sheeran also talked about the song’s composition in general, stating, “[It was] really hard to write, yeah. Very easy at the same time in terms of its flow. Because there was no trying to think of poignant lines and being like, you know, death is this or like life is this. It was just so spot on. And the lyric of ‘you are an angel in the shape of my mom,’ that could end up being a poignant line. But it was the truth.”
Although “Supermarket Flowers” may not fit the easy, uplifting tone of the rest of the album, it acts as a gentle reminder that life itself isn’t always as happy as a pop song, even for celebrities. And the beautiful tribute also evokes a sense of hope for the person who has died:
You were an angel in the shape of my mum
You got to see the person I have become
Spread your wings and I know
That when God took you back he said, Hallelujah
By listening carefully, one can see the progression that the song takes. At first, Sheeran says, “when God takes you back” and in the last stanza changes “takes” to its past tense form “took.” In this way, he adopts a sense of finality and closure. Sheeran suggests that, although a person’s life might be over, their memory and possibly even their spirit lives on. By claiming that his grandmother is “home” after her death, he hints that death may be a new beginning.
This song can definitely be a guide to healing, love and acceptance. Listen to the song in the video below, and read the full lyrics here.