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May 16, 2005
Home from our meeting. There were a good two hours before dark, and the evening was cool and comfortable -- a great time to plant things. The new border out front, so lovely only two weeks ago, has for the past week been in need of some color, with the daffodils gone and the lilies not yet in bloom. I had some purple and lavender petunias and several of a white spreading plant whose name I forget. I had thought I would do it this morning. But why not right then? Still in my meeting clothes and my leather shoes, I began.

I had a few purple plants, a few white plants and many lavender plants. There are two schools of thought as to how this might be managed: one would put all the plants of one color together, producing lovely drifts through the border. I am of the other school: I like to sequence things, in a way that moves the eye from plant to plant, rather than from drift to drift. But you don't want to sequence plants rigidly -- it needs to look random. As if God had tossed them down into the garden from heaven, and they had bloomed where they landed.

I like the garden to be like life is: one thing follows another in life, on a small scale. We don't live life in great drifts, in which one day is indistinguishable from another. We live it one day at a time. Each day is different, each one has its peculiar beauty, a beauty that will never recur, no matter how many more days there will be. Yet there are seasons to the days, certain samenesses. Here is the season of petunias, there the season of dahlias, the season of columbines, the moment of a day lily. Here is your time in school, your first job, here is your motherhood, by turns frantic and dreamy.

Look back on those times, and you can see a drift. Look back, and you also can remember a day: the professor wrote you a birthday greeting in Greek on your exam paper, you got your driving license, you watched your new baby's first yawn and felt so absurdly proud of her, you had a sudden sorrow that knocked you to the ground.

Lavender, lavender, lavender, purple, white, lavender, lavender, lavender, lavender, white, lavender, lavender, was almost dark when I finished. Each plant tucked into its new home for a cool first night on the Farm. Welcome, each. Welcome all.

The meeting had been The Compassionate Friends. A few new parents, this time: a mother and father whose 35-year-old son dropped dead and the doctors really can't say why; one whose son committed suicide; one whose son was felled by the same heart attack that had taken his father twenty years before; a couple whose little boy was happy and busy right up until the end, even with a feeding tube and a port for his chemotherapy. Some could not speak at first, not even to give their names. Not until later, after some old-timers in the meeting had told their own stories, after a mother had displayed the quilt she had made out of her son's tee shirts and talked about how some days she hadn't gotten a thing done on it, had just sat there at the sewing machine and cried, inhaling the smell of him that still clung to the soft knitted squares. The quilt was lovely. The newcomers talked a bit, more at ease now, in this room of people who knew what it was like. Each story different, all the children precious, each in his own way, all together, as if they had known each other. The individual grace of them and the sweet family of them, as the isolation of great sorrow, an aloneness that makes you feel like the only person in the world to whom this has happened, yielded to the kind garden of the group.


To learn more about The Compassionate Friends, the organization of parents whose children have died, and to find a chapter in your area, visit
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