This post is adapted from a journal entry for a class I'm taking this fall at Drew Theological School, Christianity and Ecology with Dr. Laurel Kearns, as I start my PhD program.
|The Drew Theo Community Garden|
I promise all of my journal reflections and other writing for this class won't be about my Grandpa, but he's been on my mind a lot lately. It was just the anniversary of his death, which happened when I was an undergraduate student. I had spent most of the summer visiting him everyday because I managed to get a job just down the street from where my grandparents lived.
My Grandpa was very ill for the last couple of years of his life, so the summer before he died I was gardening in his yard on my own, without his guidance. I felt very inadequate to do it without him there, guiding me. My vegetables did not turn out well that season, but the flowers I planted just bloomed and bloomed and bloomed. Everyday I was able to cut a bouquet of flowers for him and bring it in and set on his bed stand. I felt like the garden was blooming for him.
Summer came to a close, and I had found myself wishing all summer that he would die before I had to go back to school. It sounds like a strange thing to wish for, but by that time it was very evident that he was near the end of his life, and I really wanted to be there along with the rest of my family when he died. But, he's a stubborn thing, and he did not comply with my wishes! Instead, he died in the short interval between when I returned to school to get settled in for the semester and the beginning of classes. This was right at the start of my second year in college. At the time, my family was very strapped financially. I was going to school in Ohio, and it was extremely cost prohibitive for me to come home for the funeral. They would have made it happen if I had pushed it, but I knew how much it would set my whole family back to fly me home and get me back to school again. We decided I would not attend.
|Grandpa's Garden, October 1998. |
So, my mourning was a strange "suspended" thing. I came home for the first time in October, and I remember walking through the house where my grandfather had lived for my whole life, for decades, and finding it so strange that he was not there. I took some time to go out to the garden by myself, and I found such a surprise blessing: Flowers were still blooming. Everything was overgrown and looked so unkempt and so ignored, but there were so many flowers. I cut a whole mess of them. I took a "selfie", back in the days when I had to do that with an actual camera. It's not a great picture, but I have kept it all these years because it reminds me of that trip to the garden.
As I sit here at the Drew Theo Community Garden while I watch it being watered, and I see how it's a bit overgrown and unkempt (since students have been mostly absent because of Covid-19), I can't help but think of that season in my life, and Grandpa's garden, and flowers that bloom sometimes in spite of us and sometimes because of us and sometimes just because that's what flowers do. Bloom. Life and the weeds and tangles and messes. Life in the midst of death.