Create a Memorial Garden for a Loved One - Heal the Spirit
Forget Me Not flowers ~
A reminder that he is at peace ~
We did not realize just how much a memorial garden for brother would help to heal our mother. Mom so needed a reminder, close to her, that brother was at peace.
Oh, the pain, the anguish, of losing a brother is almost too much to bear. Yet I remember Father telling me often that God does not burden us with more than we can carry.
My brother was only sixty-eight when he passed away. He had suffered far too long from cancer. The disease was taking over his body, his mind, and encroaching upon every part of his life. The only relief we knew he received was when he finally left this life and turned towards his spiritual journey. When I looked upon that beloved face in death, I knew he was at peace. With no sound from me, the tears flowed freely and unashamedly as I kept my hand on his shoulder, silently praying and asking for guidance for his spirit. I felt Father near, ready to be there for Brother, to comfort his soul and lead him home.
Brother was a unique character from another place out of his time. It was like he lived back in the days when it was common for cowboys to be roaming around the country, never settling in one place for too long – always seeking new adventures, seeing new places, making new friends, playing his guitar and singing quietly in the gentle evening breezes.
Brother was a truck driver and saw more of this country than most people do. He was a kindred spirit to the Johnny Cash, Hank Williams Sr., and Woody Guthrie type men. He was a cowboy, played a great guitar and sang better than most country western stars. Every time he came home to Mother’s house to visit, his guitar was never far from him. It was almost as if it was attached to his hip! We always asked him to sing and play for us after supper.
One of my favorite songs he would always sing when asked was “On the Wings of a Snow White Dove”. He sang it so beautifully. At his memorial service I used a few of the lines of that song to help comfort the family. We all took turns saying something about Brother that was a special memory to the one speaking. When it was my turn I said, “When all seems lost, there is still love born of memories” and I recited the words of the song Ferlin Husky sang:
When trouble surrounds us,
And sorrow comes,
Our bodies grow weak,
Our spirits grow numb.
When these things beset us,
He doesn’t forget us.
He sends down His love,
On the wings of a dove.— Ferlin Husky
He always found his way home ~
Brother was very spiritual and had so much faith. He traveled most of his life to places far away and we rarely saw him, but he always managed to find his way home for special holidays or Mother’s birthday. I knew when he died he would find his way home once more.
Brother left us on Mother's 85th birthday. It hit her so very hard that we thought we were going to lose her also. We traveled from Nevada to Washington state to see him one last time. We had received notice that his time was near. Due to the health and medications my mother and sister were on we could not fly up to the Pacific Northwest. We drove up, only stopping for a few minutes at rest stops occasionally. Brother died just a short time before we got there. His daughters told us he went peacefully, knowing that we would be there soon.
As we drove into the parking lot of the rest home it was just at dusk and the rain fell gently and quietly. As we stepped out of the car I saw a patch of bright yellow daffodils blooming over by the trees in a corner of the garden. It looked like the sun had cast a golden glow on them. For some reason, which I did not realize at the time, this gave me some peace.
We stood around his bed, with his wife, and their four daughters, and prayed as one. Mama could barely stand up but she stood there with every bit of energy she had and prayed for her firstborn child. One is never closer to God and the Angels as when you stand by the bed of a loved one who has just passed over. We felt so much spiritual energy with us. My youngest brother was out in the hall. He could not bear to see his elder brother, his hero, in death. As he stood there, alone and crying, he felt a hand on his shoulder and heard Brother say, "It is alright, Little Brother." Later, when my youngest brother told us this, he said he felt a peace settle over him in that precious moment.
We will never forget ~
Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides.— Lao Tzu
Mother finds closure ~
Mother had a very difficult time accepting Brother's death. We tried so hard to give her the assurance of love and support we thought she so needed. We did not realize just how much she was suffering in silence. One year after she lost her son, she could not acknowledge or celebrate her birthday. She just wanted to be alone. At a quiet dinner with her a few days later, she started crying and said she just could not find any peace or comfort. With tears streaming she put up her hands in a gesture of hopelessness and said, "I just do not know where he is. Do you understand that?" We looked at each other and it finally dawned on us what she meant and had been holding back for so long yet just could not speak about it.
Brother's body had been cremated on wishes of his wife and daughters. This is not a way Mother believes in. To Mother, he was not at peace and had not been properly "laid to rest". We all decided that we would create a memorial garden for her. We all got involved and each of us, my two sisters, three remaining brothers, and I, did something for the garden. I hiked up the little mountain behind where I live and found a large rock that was perfect for what I had in mind. I do not know how I managed to pick up and carry that rock down the mountain and back to my apartment. It must have weighed over forty pounds. I think Brother's spirit must have helped me.
We took Mother shopping for the rose bush she wanted. My elder sister bought a beautiful oak barrel for the rose. This went in the center of the garden. Little Brother helped Mother plant all the flowers she had picked out. I painted the rock with a white cross outlined in gold and the words: "In Loving Memory", his name and dates, Beloved Son and Brother". When the garden began blooming it was gorgeous! Not long after the garden was finished, Little Brother came over to my home. He said, "It is time." He carried the rock out to his car and we took it over to Mother. Little Brother lives with her and they sit out on the patio after supper every day and watch the hummingbirds and butterflies flutter around the garden. I sat the rock on the patio table. Mother was so surprised. Tears flowed again as she put her hand on it and prayed. She told Little Brother where she wanted the rock and we placed it gently among the flowers.
Mother hugged us and said, "Thank you. I feel he has come home again and has finally been laid to rest." I believe that the simple act of planting the flowers and placing a memorial plaque in the garden was symbolic of conducting a proper burial in Mother's mind. Mother found her peace and closure. She goes out to her garden every morning, alone, and says a prayer and feels close to her son once more. She has peace in her heart and now knows that some day she will be with him again.
The winter holiday season is when I miss my eldest brother the most. With the year end holidays and the family gathering yet again for sharing and precious memories, it is hard to realize Brother is gone from Mother Earth. Then the spring always comes back with the lovely daffodils.
Brother left us in the spring of 2007, when all the daffodils were in full bloom. For the rest of my life, whenever I will see a sunny, bright patch of daffodils, I will remember Brother is at peace.
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Every time I see daffodils, I know Brother is at peace ~
Note from author ~
Update to this story: Mother passed away in November 2011, two days after Thanksgiving. She is now with her beloved first born.
Thank you for reading about our Memorial Garden for Brother. It was a blessed gift for Mother and helped her immensely. If you have lost a loved one, or know someone who has, I hope this article will help to bring peace to someone who would like a small memorial garden to care for and find the peace so needed.
Thank you, and may you always walk in peace and harmony, softly upon Mother Earth.
Phyllis Doyle Burns - Lantern Carrier, Spiritual Mentor
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© 2010 Phyllis Doyle Burns