Nestled in the mountains of Whistler, BC is a garden. I will tell you about it and I think you will agree. It is a very special garden. A very special garden indeed.
Some very thoughtful friends of ours started an Indiegogo campaign to raise money to build a garden for Owen. As a result, a community of loving and caring people from near and far, gathered together to show their support of our family of three. The initiative was kept as a secret from our family, and presented to us about 3 months after our little guy was born, on a day when a reminder of the beauty of the world was what our hearts needed.
The money raised went towards the building of the garden, a bench to sit and reflect on, and a beautiful piece of artwork that was commissioned to hang in our house. Every time we look at the artwork, we think of our little boy and the beauty that surrounds him. The love that he is and always will be.
Owen’s Garden is located within a community garden space (where people grow their organic veggies) just a short walk from our house. It is surrounded by big, majestic mountains and strong, wise trees to watch over as it grows.
We chose not to have a formal memorial service, so in the middle of April, we invited people to place rocks to form the shape of the garden bed. We wanted the garden to be formed with love. It was a way for people to show support, to acknowledge our little boy, who were otherwise at a loss for words or knowledge of how to reach out. We asked that the rocks come with a story of their journey. In addition to placing the rock(s), messages were written to Owen in a book, telling him the stories of his rock collection and imparting worldly wisdom. The messages are nothing short of incredible. We read them as a family, aloud so Owen knows how much he is loved (and how awesome his rock collection is).
Owen has rocks from all over the world, some arriving in person, others through the mail from people who care about him but could not visit in person. So many rocks of all different shapes and sizes. Sparkly rocks, flat rocks, round rocks, smooth rocks, colourful rocks, animal rocks, bee rocks, heart-shaped rocks, rainbow rocks, volcanic rocks, rocks with shells on, crystal rocks, football rocks, Owen rocks, rocks carried through journeys. Rocks from near and far – Canada, United States, New Zealand, Indonesia, Spain, Portugal, England (so far). All very special rocks, each one offering comfort to our family and adding to the story of a very cherished rock collection, one that continues to grow as people visit to place rocks from their adventures.
After the rocks were placed, we began to build the garden. The garden has given our grief a physical outlet. We pick-axed, we dug, we wheelbarrowed. Through our effort and sweat, we let the emotion out. We did this part ourselves. We needed to. It felt good. We will continue to tend to and take care of this very special space. When we water, we see rainbows, reminding us of the colour our son has brought to our lives.
We wanted the garden to represent our little boy, embodying his loving, wondrous spirit. Our aim, to build a place that we can sit and be surrounded by love and nature (so far it has attracted a ladybug, birds, bees, and blue grasshoppers). The garden itself took on a heart shape. In the centre of the garden stands three trees – a little blue spruce, an amelanchier tree, and a white lilac tree. There are also three “fireball” bushes (that will turn red in colour – fun), three purple salvias, a hydrangea called “Bobo” (a good name with great letters), a heather (in honour and namesake of Owen’s favourite nurse), and three lavender plants (from a very thoughtful family). There will be a rose (only one for our little prince), and hopefully some more violet coloured flowers (for his best buddy). We will continue to plant more as the garden takes shape. It will grow and change with time, just like the spirit of our little Owen Benjamin.
When our family is away, people take care of Owen’s Garden. They water it without necessarily having to be asked. We receive messages to tell us of visits to say hello to our little boy and/or to give him a new rock. Some have offered beautiful flowers to include in the garden, others have sent seeds. Sometimes we visit the garden to be surprised by a beautiful gesture. People are showing support in any way that they are able. The garden has proven to be a beautiful part of our journey as we learn how to live this new life.
Sometimes, as I sit on the bench and think about our little boy, I realize why the garden is there. I have a tear, realizing that this space, built and surrounded by love, is for our son. It isn’t what we wanted, how we imagined our lives to be, but we were not given the choice. The garden is so incredibly heartwarming. We visit daily, we watch it grow, we study the rocks and read the stories. We know we are loved. We are supported.
Owen’s Garden will always be a special place for our family. We feel thankful to be surrounded by so much love. They say it takes a village. We now know what that means.
(note: we will add photos as the garden grows)