When we moved into this house in the summer of 2012, we had plans to create a garden in memory of B.W. We knew we wouldn't get to it right away because of all of the other expenses that come with building and moving, but this was intended to be as close to a "forever home" as we could imagine, a place where we could create a living memorial for our son without worrying (too much) about being forced to leave it behind one day when we moved again. As a house warming gift, my friend Megan gave us a gift card to a local garden/nursery and wrote on the envelope something like:
A little something to help with B.W.'s memorial garden. I'm sure it will be beautiful.
Only a year and a half later, Zachary died. The implication, as mind-blowing and infuriating as it is..., B.W.'s memorial garden would now also be a memorial to Zachary. A garden for not one, but two, dead sons.
In autumn of last year, we worked with a landscape person to design the garden. For a very small budget, she thought about sun vs. shade, soil, drainage, color and blooming seasons. I honestly don't think our memorial concept or our dead children were in the forefront of her design, but she created a beautiful and well thought out outline for the garden, which we can personalize. She selected two trees for the space, not even realizing the significance of their blooming timeframes. One of the trees blooms in October (B.W.'s birthday) and the other in late winter (the closest we will get in Chicago to something blooming around Zachary's birthday).
We have spent virtually all of our free time over the last few weeks sourcing and implementing (ourselves) a good chunk of the garden plan. We have edged, shoveled, planted and mulched around something like 45-50 trees, shrubs and plants. It has been a physical labor of love for B and me, with plenty of anger and bitterness embedded with it.
You see, this is not how it was supposed to go. The garden was supposed to be yet another way to assimilate B.W.'s death, our grief, the place in our hearts that he holds, into the fabric of our lives. I had imagined a living Zachary involved in this, involved in everything we do in memory of B.W. We were not supposed to add his name to the memorial garden. The garden is not supposed to be for him too! It is still so hard to accept, still so unbelievable that it's real. Of course, I wonder if and when we'll have need to memorialize C.T. too.
We installed a chicken wire fence today to see if the Japanese forest grass will grow back in front of the bird bath. Rabbits ate them overnight, leaving trails of pellet droppings everywhere. I know we'll need a longer term solution but we were hoping to at least allow those plants to grow again, unbothered, if possible. After the bird bath seemed to sit unused for two weeks, which was really depressing for all three of us, B and I finally saw a bird land and play there yesterday.
We are still working on ways to personalize the garden. Ideas and items that had B.W.'s name incorporated now need to be replicated for Zachary. C.T. has been collecting rocks "for Zachary" for over a year now, and we have to figure out how and where those fit. A bereaved friend from Colorado stayed with us a couple of nights last weekend, as she and her daughter made their way to the east coast. She gave us a few beautiful items, in memory of B.W. and Zachary, to incorporate into the garden.
I have spent hours online looking for other customizable memorial garden things. There are very few that don't make me want to vomit. My searches turn up thousands of cutesy options for acknowledging living children, for pet memorials, for the perpetually overused butterflies and dragon flies. Then there are the ones that attempt to sanitize and pretty-up the situation... too beautiful for earth or God needed another angel / flower for his garden. Most of the more sobering items, intended as human memorials, look like tombstones and include wording about a long life lived and how the memories will live in our hearts. Isn't there anything that leaves a painfully real impression, that allows for the injustice of having lost two children?
I don't know that I will ever be satisfied with anything I find when it means allowing for some kind of beauty to come out of Zachary's death. I could find the sweet amidst the bitter, a few years ago, for a garden in memory of B.W. I find I am not as capable or willing now, after having been struck again by the death of another son, who died against all odds. It is still too wrong, still too uniquely horrifying, for his broken mother.