Friday, April 29, 2011

Gardening as therapy

Mom holding Zach when he was a baby.


I have a love/hate relationship with April. Love because spring is finally here; I can get out of the house and into the garden (well, if it’s not raining). Everything is green and flowers are blooming everywhere you look. As someone who can’t stand being cooped up inside, April feels like God’s reward for enduring winter.

In addition, a lot of good things have happened for me in April. As a lot of you know, I was very sick when my first son was born 8 years ago. I went into the hospital on February 26th, 2003 and after doctors told my husband on at least three occasions that I probably wouldn’t live through the night, I finally came home on April 1st, 2003. I still remember inching my way up the steps, only to see Darby the Wonderdog wagging her tail and wiggling her whole body with joy when she saw me. I broke into tears right then, overwhelmed with joy to be alive and home.

Good things continued on April 16th, 2003 when Zach finally came home from the hospital. He was born 10 weeks early on March 12th, 2003 and weighted 2 lbs, 14 oz. Doctors told us he would probably stay in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) until sometime around his due date (May 22nd). He surprised everyone and came home 4 weeks earlier than expected.

Like I said—Good Things.

However, both of my parents died in April which makes the month feel bookended by grief. As I mentioned in an earlier post this month, my dad died on April 4, 2001. Three years ago, my mom died on April 25th, 2008. However, she lived alone and I didn’t find her until April 29th which makes today especially hard; therefore, in spite of the cloudy weather, I’m spending the day in the garden.

I feel like I’m part of something larger than myself when I’m in the garden. The physicality of garden pulls me outside of my head. Yanking weeds, planting seeds, digging sod all require a good amount of strength which means that for a little bit, I have peace. In addition, the repetitive nature of the work becomes meditative. It allows me to drift back and remember the every day moments I shared with my mom—like our trips to garden stores.

Both of my parents loved gardening. My father dug up a large part of their back yard to grow vegetables, and my mother loved container gardening with flowers. (Actually, I think she liked planning the containers and then looking at the flowers more than the work!) I am a mix of them both. Like my father, I actually enjoy working in the garden. But like my mother, I love flower gardening. Gardening lets me hold onto them a little longer. For that, I will always be grateful.

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