Saturday, August 27, 2011

Ashley's Garden

When faced with the question "how will we mark our daughter's life?" we wondered what we would do. We considered giving a scholarship to her school in Ashley's memory. It was a good idea, but would only leave and impact on one person each year. Knowing Ashley, one person was not enough! She left an impression on every person she met. Not knowing what else to do, we began with a tree. We asked the school if we could plant a tree with a plaque in Ashley's memory at the school. We also wondered if maybe a bench would be appropriate. We wanted Ashley's friends to have a place to go to and remember her. We were amazed when we were granted permission to do what we wanted in a much larger space than we imagined. The tree soon turned into many trees, a flower garden, and a patio with benches! Ashley always dreamed big...and so did we!

The garden was designed and we broke ground over the summer. It wasn't long before it took shape! The raised flower bed would be completed last, as we invited Ashley's classmates and teachers from her years at Red Lion to leave a lasting mark in her garden. What a touching day it was for us. We worked hard, pouring concrete and all, but also enjoyed watching as everyone gathered together in Ashley's garden. We enjoyed talking to Ashley's friends and their families. We shared memories together. Not only did Ashley touch the lives of these people, but they touched her life! Each one of them was important to her. She loved school. She loved her friends. She loved her teachers! Ashley left impressions in each of their lives, and now they were marking theirs!

So many things about the garden are special to me. Leaving hand prints has been a tradition in our family. Since we started our greenhouse business here in Maryland, we would have our children leave their hand prints in the concrete as we poured it. There are several places around our home and farm where Ashley's prints are found.
It only made sense to include hand prints into the garden!

Ashley often dreamed of having her own "secret" garden. One year, she even took the liberty to build her own garden behind our goat barn. She carried rocks back there, stacked them up, filled the garden with dirt, and carefully chose her favorite plants from the greenhouse to plant in her garden. She proudly showed it to each of us! We desired a flower bed, that would be carefully planted with her daddy's flowers each season. What a treasure it was for her daddy and her brother to visit the garden last week and to plant the first flowers in her garden!

When I think of Ashley's "space" it is not her bedroom. Ashley's space was outside! She loved to be outside. Ashley checked the weather each morning on the computer. She wanted to see if today she could play outside! She picked flowers, chased butterflies, caught frogs, climbed trees, played sports, imaginary games, built tents.....and so much more! When I want to feel close to Ashley, I usually go outside. The garden is a place where people can be visit, to study, to wait, to teach. A class period outside was always a highlight to Ashley's school day!

The part of the garden that most represents Ashley is what it is meant to do. The garden is a gathering place. A place to sit, relax, enjoy others, and the outdoors! I will never forget the times we were "all together" as a didn't matter what we were doing, just that we were together. I can still hear her say "look, Mom, we are all together!" It was right up her alley to have family gatherings, birthday parties, picnics, social events....whatever! as long as everyone was all together!
Ashley worked hard to be sure that everyone got along! She knew the interests of each person she was with and orchestrated the situation to makes each person fit in. She didn't like anyone to feel left out. She wanted everyone to get along. What a blessing it has been for us to watch people gather in Ashley's garden. She would love this.
It is a secret garden, a place to gather together, a place to visit....we dreamed big as Ashley always did....we gifted it to the school because Ashley loved to give, and it holds the hand prints of the friends who touched her life, and it will remain forever as a lasting impression of our sweet Ashley.

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