Monday, May 12, 2014

A Mother's Day Gift from Strangers

Mother’s Day felt blessedly full this year compared to the bleakness of last year. We rode bikes to meet my in-laws at a favorite breakfast place; I tried not to look at the intact families around us with young men at the table. On the way home, we passed the house where both our boys were born (Noah a few hours before an earthquake). I took a bubble bath, read the Sunday paper, and had a leisurely phone call with our living son, who sent a beautiful fruit arrangement. My husband surprised me with a card he wrote on behalf of Noah—“what I wish he could have written to you.” That evening, we hosted our book group for the first time since Noah died, the biggest gathering we’ve had aside from memorials.

For most of the day, I felt present in the onward flow of life and connected to others. For this, I am grateful. I know not all Mother’s Days will be like this. I know many of my fellow mourning moms had a tough day, and that I could, too, next year or the next.

I didn’t seek out time to grieve that day, but it came the moment I stepped into the Children’s Memorial & Healing Garden in a quiet corner of a park in our old neighborhood.

Apparently, there are many such gardens around the country, created by chapters of The Compassionate Friends, religious institutions, nonprofits or individuals, but we had never heard of our local one until recently. There was an arched gateway made of willow branches at each end of the small, shaded grove of plantings. A stone path wound past mosaics and inscriptions, a sculpture of children at play, and boulders marked with the names of young people. I immediately felt at home and sheltered. Here was a peaceful spot dedicated to remembrance that people could either linger in or walk through on their way to picnics and playground. Mourners were given their own contemplative place, set apart from yet surrounded by the beauty and activity of the park. What a gift to families in that community. How fitting to finally get to see it on Mother’s Day. I wanted to find a rock for Noah’s name. I imagined visiting the garden more than the cemetery, maybe meeting other parents there.

As I left the garden, I noticed these words engraved underfoot:
Bring all of your feelings into this garden
Let flow the emotions no time can harden.
And as you pause here to reflect,
Give those feelings their due respect.
From frustration, sadness, depression, and fear,
To the joy of remembrance, lightness and cheer,
All emotions are welcome here.

No wonder I felt safe. Thank you to the strangers who made this sanctuary—an unexpected gift this Mother’s Day and for days to come.

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