Monday, July 26, 2010

What is a "Memorial Garden" to you?

Do you have a Memorial Garden? What do you have in it?

Years ago I started one without the formal intention of being a "memorial garden". I have been fortunate not to lose anyone in my family till I was in my mid thirties. At our old home I had made a spot in front of this tree that I could sit on the rock wall that separated the garden from the stone driveway. When my Grandfather passed I had taken a grapevine wreath filled with flowers from the cemetery and hung it on the tree. That was the beginning. Eventually I realized that for each person I had lost, I added something from their funeral or something that reminded me of them. It became my own little way of keeping a preserved space for them in my life.

When we moved to our new home 3 years ago, it was pretty much a blank slate. It was just 2+ acres of grass. We had moved during what I call the "Bad Years" and I was in bad shape. Even though I had dug up and potted every single plant, shrub and tree and took it with me, I  had no desire or will power to figure out where everything should go.

Two days after closing on the house we lost our 8 day old grandson, Dominic. Today, it's 3 years now since we had to say goodbye. Losing Dominic took something more than just a piece of my heart, he took a piece of my soul. I had planted a Japanese Lace Leaf Maple behind his head stone. I purposely bought one that had branches only on one side. A few months later I was told I had to remove it, so I brang it home and gave it a temporary spot in the garden till I could make the "Memorial Garden" that I wanted. I had an idea that I wanted my memorial garden to have all white flowers and white rocks and initially planned on it being on top of the septic mound with a stone bench. The stone bench will have a verse from "Fields of Athenry" engraved on it, something I hummed over and over to Dominic whenever I was with him. The white rocks would come from our property upstate, NY, my home away from home.

Well, I lost my job just a few months later which put a big screaming halt on a lot of plans around the house. I still haven't been able to get a job so I have tried to figure out what else to do till I can afford my dream plan. In late winter, Dominic's tree suffered a big break by accident and come spring nothing happened. My husband got me a new tree for mother's day knowing that was the only thing on my mind. Well now I really needed a plan so I could get this tree out of its pot.

Finally a plan formed and I decided to once again add on to the garden in the backyard. I wanted something different that would stand out from the rest, yet still belong. I decided to build a rock wall, only higher this time, and in a "U" in front of the septic so that it would go into the side of the hill. I would  plant Dominic's tree here and it would have its own space. Years ago I had found one of my grandmother's statues of "Mary" and brang it home from upstate. I had been meaning to make a grotto for it ever since. I decided now would be the time and I would put it in the front of the rock wall and garden. I used an old plastic sled for a mold to form the grotto which I made using hypertufa. I made a base in the rock wall using some pieces of slate and the hypertufa to make sure I had a nice flat surface for the statue.

Getting ready to add the grotto. Note the 2 rebars in back for support. They will be "hypertufa-ed" to the grotto.

The grotto, made of hypertufa. I wet down the grotto and base, then added hypertufa to the base before putting the grotto on top.

Smoothed out the hypertufa

I hammered in  a couple of rebars in the ground behind the grotto to help support it, then added hypertufa around them, while also blending it into the surrounding stones. The concrete over engineering... I had to keep wetting down the grotto and hypertufa so it would stick since it was like 200 degrees out when I did this.

Covering the hypertufa with plastic for a few days so it can cure. Started to fill in behind the wall.

Filling in with dirt and peat moss. I put Dominic's tree in so it could finally get out of it's pot, giving the roots a chance to move while I continue finishing the rest of the work. Still have at least a foot higher to go with the stone wall, and a lot more dirt and peat. I haven't made up my mind what to put behind it though. I would like a back wall of some kind, it just hasn't hit me yet, but it will.
Well, when I started this it was a lot nicer out! Since then it got unbearably hot, I kept getting sick till I finally winded up in the hospital with pneumonia. All this put a big screaming halt on my project. But this past week, July 18 to 26 are the 8 short days that we had Dominic and I really wanted to get it done by today. Unfortunately the rocks I am using on this wall are pretty big and I can only handle a few before my back turns to jello. But luckily, the garage plans took so long to finally happen, that I now have a piles of dirt which I need to fill in this project....cause it's taking a whole lot more than I expected! My teenage son Hunter (aka "Manboy") is back from the a week at the beach, so he can help with the loads of dirt and picking up the stones. And wouldn't you know it, the heatwave has broken to! You know what Mick always says " No, you can't always get what you want, and if you try sometime, you may find, you get what you need". I swear, at a time when I am usually sullen and sad, God has been doing everything the past couple of days to make sure I don't stay that way! Thank You God!!!XXXOOO
So when I am done with  this post, I will do some studying for school, then I will head out and get done what I can today before going to class tonight. When I get home I will pour myself a cocktail, sit in my swing and enjoy Dominic's garden in the moonlight. I will keep you posted with the final results, whenever that happens!
Till then, think about your own memorial garden. What makes you happy when you think of those who are gone? Growing vegetables like your grandmother did? Some seashells collected with a favorite friend? A special flower that your mother always adored as her favorite? A stepping stone with child's hand print? A favorite old chair your grandfather sat on outside?

The rules of a Memorial Garden:  Anything that makes your heart smile!

~In God's Hands~
 July 18- 26, 2007


Byddi Lee said...

A beautiful post. The picture of Dominic is so perfect. An angel. Hope your memorial garden helps comfort your heart. Sending you prayers...

Karen said...

Your post is wonderful. Dominic was a beautiful child, and your memorial garden is a fitting tribute to his memory. My heart goes out to you.

I am so impressed by the stone work and your construction techniques with the grotto...I could SO use your help here with a stone project!

Tete said...

When my mother and grandmother passed away within 6 months of each other, it was hard. I can't always get to the cemetery and they wouldn't come back there anyway. My husband's mother passed before we were married, so I began a mother's garden. It started with one tree. Now there are 2 with a white picket fence in the middle of them and flowers planted in front and behind. Gazing ball, seating for them when they visit us in spirit and a glass totem so far. They both had green thumbs. We added another seat when my father in law passed this Jan.
My son has a memorial garden for the pets that have gone.
I can see both from the kitchen window behind our table.
I love the work you have done on yours. I can't wait to see how it turns out.
What a sweet baby boy. I'm sure God loves rocking him.

Heather said...

What a sweet Memorial Garden - a beautiful tribute!

Jester said...

Many Thanks to all for all the kind words.
Tete: your mother's garden sounds wonderful, I would love to see pictures of it sometime. My father also passed 5 months after Dominic, the night after Christmas to. He has his own special "spot" upstate NY. He wanted to be creamated & his ashes put at his favorite hunting spot "Mariannie's Rock". A bunch of us hiked up there with my mom, she had us each take a "handful" of ashes and put it where ever we wanted up on the ledge where his"seat" was. My husband also bought the Giants medallion (cause his favorite team played an awesome game and won the superbowl!!!!) & made a metal frame for it that we screwed into the tree at his spot. We each told a favorite memory of my dad, it was really the best "funeral" I've ever been to.
I will never forget the night I was sitting outside in my swing, crying yet again, and a thought came to me. I looked up at the full moon and it just hit me, that maybe Dominic had to go cause he needed to be there for my dad, to show him that there really is a Heaven. I was the only one that same moment a light in my basement flickered on & off for almost a whole minute! I got my answer, & it made the question why??? so much easier to accept.

May God Bless You all!!!!

Rosey said...


First of all, what a sweet tribute to create a garden in memory of a loved one.

Second, I love the name of your blog . I can totally relate to that.

Beth said...

I am so sorry you lost your beautiful grandson. You are making a beautiful, beautiful garden in his memory. That is a wonderful tribute.
Hugs and blessings, Beth

Anonymous said...

I find solace in strange places.

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