Mary’s Garden


The first house Rob and I bought was a cute lil rambler that we fixed up and made our own. We stripped nasty wall paper off for days and painted all the pink walls a latte color. We painted our ugly gray cabinets a crisp white and Rob crafted a beautiful mantel that we placed pictures and candles on. We designed the backyard with parties in mind and built an arbor and stone pathways.  My aunt whose garden at the time should have been in Sunset magazine drove over from Eastern Washington with a car full of starts. We planted hostas and lilies and lavender all from her garden and then they flourished in ours. This was our first garden.

Years later after the birth of our first baby, the house and the garden with which we had greatly loved, now needed to be passed onto a new family as we were going to move into a house we had built. I will never forget meeting the family that fell in love with our first home. They had two boys our son’s age who were twins. And I thought I was busy! Just seeing this woman with double what I had on my hands, gave me great respect for her! The Moore’s had relocated to Bellingham and Mary loved gardening, so they fell in love with the place.

We had sweet memories in that home from unpacking all our wedding gifts to our first Christmas together to baby showers and then bringing Aidan home to his cheery yellow baby room that we had designed for him. But it was time for this new family to make it home sweet home and that they did.

We didn’t know each other well, but our boys were the same age and ended up going to kindergarten together and journeyed all throughout elementary school in the same community. Mary, the mother of those boys taught all our kids. I have never seen someone so involved in the education of not just her boys, but all of our children. I volunteered on occasion, but this woman who had once been a teacher, she was at school nearly every day reading with children, making homework packets, and doing crafty art projects. She invested hours and hours of her life into the kids’ lives. I admired her devotion, values, sacrifice and service and felt grateful to her for how she was blessing my kid and many others.

Just a year and a half ago Mary was diagnosed with an intense form of cancer. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t imagine it. I couldn’t imagine how her husband was going to hold everything together as amazing as he is. How were the boys going to cope? How was she going to handle not being the amazing involved parent that she was? How would she navigate all the loss and sickness? How would she say goodbye?

I found myself at her house one Sunday afternoon with a group of people working in her yard. I was bent down on my knees in the dirt Rob and I had hauled by wheelbarrow years prior. I was weeding her garden beds and I knew which were weeds and which weren’t. I had helped form and shape the curves of those beds and I knew where the tulip bulbs were and the crocuses. I stood under the arbor and dead headed the climbing purple clematis. We did that day what Mary loved to do but was becoming no longer able.

Mary passed away last week. I think about her. I think about her love for her kids. I think about her love for gardening. When people talk about heaven they talk about it like it’s some cheesy place where everyone follows the rules and wears crowns and walks on streets of gold. Frankly I could give a rip if I ever wear a crown or walk streets made of valuable stone or hang out in a place where everyone looks the part. What I care about deep in my soul is a place that promises spring. It is currently fall and the summer flowers have wilted. The leaves have turned burnt orange and yellow and have fallen. The bulbs now wait underground. But spring is coming. Mary’s garden will bloom this next spring as a reminder to all of us of what is true in the physical realm that is also promised in the spiritual. I love that Jesus’ very life and death and life again were like that of the crocus. Gone to come again, popping up to peek out on some given sunny day. His very self reminds us of the power that God has over the physical realm, Him in whose very presence we hear “spring is a comin’. ”

I wait for spring. I wait for death after life. I wait for her to be reunited with her boys. I wait for healing after sickness. I wait for the light in our days after the endless march of a long dark winter. I wait for the promise of something good after something horrifically awful like cancer. I wait for them. I wait for me. I wait for you. I wait for spring. Heaven is spring unfolded forever where death has no sting and cancer has no hold, where redemption reunites boys with their mamas and the lilies bloom forever.

This fall, I wait for spring.


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  • Julie says:

    I love what you said about heaven. I hope for that too. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your friend. Prayers are with her family and yours.

  • John says:

    This was beautiful Willow. A unique perspective on heaven that I like a lot. It also brought back fond memories of bible studies and BBQs in that house. Prayers for Mary’s family and thanks for your voice.

    • woundedwillow says:

      John- thank you for your kind words..i too have fond memories of you there. We can now pray together for find memories for those boys in the years to come!