Grief & Gardens

I sat outside that afternoon on a blanket laid across the grass in my backyard – the sunshine providing the perfect temperature to enjoy the pleasures of summer. I was surrounded by my garden, over grown in places, but green with life.

The type of life that activated fond memories of Grandma and her gardens. My lemon balm reminds me of the time Grandma walked me through Gretel’s garden at the cottage. Grandma bent over and plucked a leaf from the plant, rubbed it between her fingers and placed it under my nose. A fragrance entered my nostrils followed by a deep breath of contentment. “Another name for lemon balm is Melissa” she smiled. “Melissa” has taken over my garden and is a stop that every visitor has to make at my home during the summer months. Just a few weeks ago I walked my sister over to the garden, bent down and plucked a leaf from the plant and handed it to her. “Smell it!” I exclaimed with pride.

A house is not a home – Grandma taught me how to make a home. My house will never be as tidy as hers, but what she taught me as a child became my pride and comfort as an adult.

To Grandma, I was her priority. She wasn’t there to entertain me as a child. She was there to give me her time and invite me into her world. I felt like a prized protege when I was with her. Sure, we still played with dolls, Halloween Trick-or-Treating and the money game, but it was flipping through post cards that resurrected stories of past adventures taken. Relics from Austria, Australia, Egypt and India ignited more curiosity in me. It was the ball of yarn that turned into a crocheted blanket – or in my case a doll scarf. It was pots and pans, baking sheets and mixers that made me feel like I was learning from a master chef. It was the garden that grew red currants, green beans, carrots, lettuce, cherry tomatoes and more, that connected me to the Earth – to enjoy time without, just filling it with stuff.

On July 8th I sat in my backyard drinking sparkling water from Grandma’s souvenir glass painted with sights from Austria. I sipped the rich history of Grandma’s legacy – a survivor of World War II, moving from country to country, starting over at each before finally settling in Canada.

On July 8th I wrapped Grandma’s soft yellow apron patterned with small blue and pink flowers around my body as I baked banana muffins. I smiled to myself, remembering all the fond memories baking with Grandma. She was the master chef and I was her protege. The apron felt like Grandma. 

On July 8th I received news from mom that Grandma passed away. I sat in my backyard with tears running down my face. My garden, a fraction of hers grows memories of red currant jam, scents of lemon balm and mint, chives sprinkled on warm baked potatoes and light purple carnations that remind me that “Spring is here.” 

The loss of a loved one hurts and grief comes in waves of all sorts. I’ve surrounded myself with memories – sights, smells, tastes and textures that activate my senses and bring me comfort. No life is a loss when it flourishes in the hearts and minds of loved ones.

I know God is gracious and compassionate and death is not life’s end. 🌼



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