It is never easy to lose a loved one, whether it is a family member, a friend or even a pet. The grieving process can be one of the most emotionally difficult and painful experiences we go through in life. Even after years have gone by, my throat and chest still tighten up and my eyes start to burn in my effort to hold back tears when thinking about my loved ones who have passed. Everyone grieves differently, but it is nice to try and focus on celebrating your loved one and remembering their life. Naturally, I look for ways to do that in the garden.
As a landscape designer my clients often ask me to incorporate memorial elements into their garden spaces– whether it is a small sitting area surrounded by plants with sentimental value, a small plaque, statue or a single tree. Often the plants used have a specific fragrance, colors or a species that their loved one once enjoyed. I’ve also been asked to place such memorable transplants into gardens that were carried from home to home. My own mother dug up her special roses every time we moved when I was young. To this day, the only reason I plant roses is because of her passion for those few plants.
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Last year I had the pleasure and honor of working on an amazing project. The City of Mill Creek asked for my help to design a memorial garden for veterans. Early on in the process, my Grandfather passed away unexpectedly which left me unable to function normally for many weeks. He was an incredible man that I was proud to call my Grandfather. It was a difficult time, but this project helped me get through it.
Throughout the design process – especially once I could see it coming to life, emotions always got the best of me. Both of my grandfathers served in the military during WWII, and now neither will ever see this memorial. However, both will have their names engraved in stone at this site.
On Memorial Day, May 31st, 2010 the City of Mill Creek unveiled the “Veteran’s Monument”, the community garden for people to honor and remember the men and women who served in the military. The morning event was full of hundreds of faces young and old, many in decorated uniforms. Despite the downpour of rain, people stood and listened to the dedication and heartbreaking stories of families who’ve lost their loved ones. Afterwards the visitors where able to browse the many names of men and women who were in the Armed Forces, all engraved on beautifully polished basalt columns.
In the course of this project I listened to many stories of veterans and their loved ones which often left me speechless. These are all people to respect and remember; who sacrificed time away from family and often their lives. I cannot easily find the words to describe how much of an incredible experience it was; to work with so many passionate people on a community project that has so much meaning to everyone involved, and the great community it was built for.
Even months after the unveiling ceremony I can’t help but get teary when I see someone in the garden, which will be a place for people to honor their loved ones, forever.
More on this project:
- Photos from start to finish
- Front page article on Memorial Day 2010
- This side bar article about my grandfather-in-law who played a significant role in the Iwo Jima war – this article about him shows the connection to the project
- A short video with some great photos, including at night with lighting!