Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Rememberance Garden

I was awakened one early morning last January by the sound of an ambulance. The lights reflected on my bedroom windows and I jumped out of bed thinking my elderly next door neighbor was ill. As I walked out into our dining room I could see flashing lights in every window of my house. I shouted for my husband and moved to look out the side door. 
A horrific sight unfolded.  The house across from me on the cul-du- sac was completely engulfed in flames stretching 3 stories high in the sky. We would later find out that nonfunctional smoke detectors failed to alert my neighbor Becky, her husband who was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, their adult son who was disabled and wheelchair bound and his service dog. All three would perish by smoke inhalation in the few short moments before our firefighters arrived. 
Our neighborhood was devastated. I was "facebook friends" with a few neighbors near me and we messaged all day long. I was recovering from surgery and was really depressed. Their burned house was right outside my kitchen window and there was a constant stream of traffic from my other windows. One teary afternoon, a school bus of children from the Catholic school stopped and prayed in the circle. There has to be something good that could come from this. 
My answer to most things is pie. I decided for Lent that I would do a service. I baked 10 pies each Saturday and took them around my neighborhood. I introduced myself, made them introduce themselves to me, commiserated about our tragedy and invited them to join a private facebook page I created for our neighborhood. I believe I made over 40 pies. 
Sharing and conversations led to a discussion of creating a memory garden in the circle near the house. Here we have Mr. Merry supervising the planting of a weeping cherry tree while preparing our flower bed. 
On a warm May morning, a group of neighbors gathered and planted the garden. Everyone donated flowers and some donated funds for the purchase of small flowering bushes. A nearby neighbor purchased the plaque. 
Another neighbor donated the lighthouse, one of Becky's favorite things and now a focal point of the garden. 
Small annuals provided summer color and we planted perennials to take hold and bloom next year. 
And while we planted, the house - boarded for almost 6 months by then, watched the garden take shape. 
My elderly neighbor donated the sleeping angel, which my grandchildren called "baby napping" as we took buckets over every day to keep the flowers alive during  a very hot and dry July.
In late July a neighbor, who is a disabled Viet Nam vet and felt bad he could not help with the gardening, donated the solar lights to showcase the garden after dark. The house had finally been torn down. 
Our Facebook page organized our very first block party in August. Despite temperatures that nearly reached 100 degrees, we had a great turn out. One neighbor who DJ's on weekends donated his services and the city granted us a permit to close the street. 

I took this picture of our garden in early October while a few brave marigolds still held the fort. I want to remember to plant some again next year for fall color. 

I won't mention the insurance company. It has been a struggle as a neighbor with a vacant boarded shell of a house, home to wildlife for six months, then demolition rubble, and now . . . nothing. It is my understanding that lumber to frame the replacement house will be delivered on November 30th and construction will begin in December. We had our first snow fall last night and I am wondering how that works. I feel so sorry for their surviving children. They are in their thirties with young families and this is never ending for them. 

But if one good thing has come from this horrible experience, it would be that we have transformed our neighborhood into our mini Mayberry.  We continue to "talk" on our Facebook page. People post lost pets, found garbage can lids in the wind, local information. We held a street-wide garage sale, admired everyone's teenagers in their homecoming togs, and lamented the lack of parking when our street was repaved this summer. We have even organized some outings (okay, ladies only). 

Now, when I look out my kitchen window, the memories of that horrible morning are starting to fade. There is still sadness with the loss of life, but I also see new beginnings when I look at our garden. 

Miss Merry