Today I raked my mother’s garden. It was not my intention to rake the entire garden, but the task was one of overwhelming and unexpected joy. In February of 2010 my mother was diagnosed with Lung Cancer, and the garden had been sadly neglected ever since. As I tended to the garden, a flood of memories came to mind. The clearest though, was that spring of 2010.
That year I bought flat after flat of blooming annuals. The colors were bold and bright, and I chose varieties that would last all summer. I wanted to provide my mother with the most stunning garden of her life. I wanted the beauty to counter the pain and discomfort of her disease. I wanted to give back something in return for all she had done for me.
As the spring progressed, mom grew tired quickly. Though I had planned the most stunning garden ever, I was only able to plant about one flat of flowers before my time needed to be spent doing other things for Mom. The garden was not beautiful. In fact, it was less than beautiful. It was not raked, and the flowers that were normally thinned were overcrowded, and, some even died. I gave away the flats of flowers and let go of the dream of giving mom the perfect garden. Mom did not seem to mind. But, I did.
Mom passed away in February of 2011. That year came and went without a thought of the garden. Then, spring of 2012 arrived and I was determined to dismantle Mom’s garden. I even promised any interested friends, co-workers, and neighbors that I would dig and deliver Mother’s beloved perennials. But I could not.
Again in 2013 I have offered flowers to friends and family. So today, I began to make Mother’s garden beautiful one last time. As I raked I thought of how much she loved this garden, and how much I did not. It is not particularly organized, nor does it follow any of the rules for creating the perfect flower garden. It is truly a hodge podge of perennials that were added as she received them, with the edges of the garden moving outward into the yard farther and farther.
I was suddenly struck by the whimsy of this haphazardly planted flower garden. Without a doubt what my mother did best was to control, organize, and manage people, places, and things. This garden with no clear boundaries had no rules, nor need to be perfect. Finally I got it! This was the one place my mother had that did not have to be perfect, as it was beautiful of its own accord, just by being. All she needed to do was to love it, tend to it a bit, and enjoy the gift of colors and scents, and the birds and butterflies that were attracted to it.
My mother’s garden is beautiful again. Three years of leaves and branches removed. Three years of blackberry bushes and small trees that threatened to take over removed. The soil relieved of its heavy burden can breathe, feel the sun, the rain, heat. and cold. And like the garden, I too have begun to shed the heaviness, the sadness, and despair. I, too, can once again feel the sun, the rain, heat, and cold. I am but one of my mother’s flowers, frequently difficult to control, organize, or manage. My boundaries are often fluid, and I am not perfect. But I am a beautiful flower that she loved, tended to, and mostly enjoyed, and I am forever grateful.
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© Gail Howarth and Living At The Lakehouse, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gail Howarth and Living At The Lakehouse with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.