When Matthew died, we planted a little garden in our backyard that was our memory garden. We planted all the pretty plants that were given to us when he passed (by we, of course I mean Brad because I'm not much for gardening). The soil was prime for growth. Beauty was planted, but later neglected. It now stands overgrown and definitely not a place of respite.
Today, I see the garden in our backyard. It was planted with such good intentions. It was meant to be a place of beauty and a place for me to go to sit quietly and remember my son. Neglect gave weeds the opportunity to start creeping in, one by one. They didn't pop up all in one day. They came in one by one, growing slowly until before we knew it, the entire garden was overtaken by tall grass and I couldn't even see what was supposed to be there and what wasn't. If only I had spotted the unwanted weed and removed it the moment it crept up, the garden would have never gotten to the state of disrepair it is in today.
I think I'm like that garden. Much like I neglected the garden we had planted in order to promote healing for my soul, I neglected feeling the pain I needed to feel in order to heal. The thoughts I hadn't dealt with, the feelings I'd pushed aside, the memories I'd suppressed and the lies I had told myself had grown in like intrusive weeds, choking out my spirit. Had I caught them when I spotted them and realized that they didn't belong, I would have been in a different place in January 2017. I had grown so accustomed to my darkness, it had become my new normal. I didn't remember any other way.
The past 9 months have been a season of having the ground I've been standing on be dug up, tilled, fertilized, dug up some more, weeded, plowed, bulldozed and I'm still not sure it's ready to be planted in yet. It's not been a season of loss or grief or anything bad happening. It has actually been a beautiful, albeit a sometimes painful time.
God pretty much needed to start from scratch with me. Sometimes you see a garden and you think, "Yeah, I can work with that," and other times a garden is in such disarray, there's nothing you can do except scrap it and start over (if left to me, that's what all my flower beds would look like). There may be some good stuff in there, but it's so covered up by weeds and insects that its best to just start all over.
For the past two or three weeks, I've heard the phrase "You reap what you sow" no less than 30 times. I know that's no coincidence. I'm paying attention to that and have been trying to figure out exactly what that means to me right now. In that garden, I sowed nothing. I haven't pulled a weed out of it in years. I don't water it. I don't plant things in it. Obviously, I have reaped nothing. I have nothing of beauty to show for what was generously given to us and what Brad lovingly planted for me because I didn't tend to it properly.
When I sow in hopelessness and sadness, it is what I reap. It's not much of an offering for anyone around me and definitely not something I would like to give to a loved one. If I sow in joy and hope, I am going to reap a harvest worthy to share with the world. When the thoughts creep in like weeds, threatening to choke out the beauty I've planted and cared for, if I'm paying attention, I can stop it before it has the chance. I see it coming and pluck it out by its roots, disposing of it. Simply cutting it down won't stop it from coming back. I have to stop it at its source.
As much as I hate gardening and dirty hands, I think I'm going to have to get out there and start cleaning up his garden. It won't be quick, unfortunately (I like instant gratification) but I know that in order to reap the benefits of a beautiful garden, I have to put in the hard work. I have to sweat and get dirt under my fingernails (things I don't like so much). In doing so, I know life lessons will continue to be learned and deeper understanding will come.
Update: Mother’s Day 2018 didn’t start out well for me. I woke up in a mood, started the day fighting with my teenager, begrudgingly going to church, afraid something might be said to make me lose it all together. I’m tender and sensitive on Mother’s Day already, so it doesn’t take much to send me over the edge.
I decided to choose joy today. Brad got me flowers and mulch to redo Matthew’s garden... I finally decided to tend to it, 8 months after the blog post. It feels good to see it restored. Maybe, slowly, I’m being restored, too.
Mother’s Day 2018 💙