I was watering my plants this morning and a sweet, sweet memory popped into my head.
I once had a friend named Mary. She was a bright force in our world… full of joy, energy, compassion, and integrity. She lost her life in a car accident when she was about 28 years or so. It was a very difficult time for many of us who adored Mary.
***** I am an affiliate with several advertising groups . This allows me to earn a commission if you make any kind of purchase through the links I provide. There is no extra cost to you. *****
During my grieving period, another friend, Lisa, and I happened to have made a date for a walk around Greenlake. I used to love walking dates with friends (pre-kids!). As Lisa and I walked, I poured out my grief and so many memories. Lisa was a gift that day. The next day, when I got home from work, there was a plant start in a canning jar sitting on my front porch. It had a beautiful little note attached, “Karla, I was honored to walk in your grief with you yesterday. This is your Mary Plant. It is a way to remind yourself that Mary is still alive in your heart and in your memories. With love, Lisa”
This was about 5 years before my first daughter, Alice, came to my home. Alice was a little 4-year-old in a lot of pain. She raged about 5-10 times a day… wordless screams with kicking, throwing things, spitting, hitting. She had good reason and, while I took a lot of training and worked closely with a therapist, many of my responses were spur of the moment and instinctual. Things were so furious and unpredictable that I rarely had time to check in with ‘the experts.’ Alice had witnessed her mother’s murder when she was 2 1/2 years old. She sat on the bed with her mother while the most important person in her life was raped and strangled. Alice’s language development stopped in that moment. Her brain was forever altered by the trauma and the onslaught of bio-neurological chemicals that flooded her body. And with no language to help process everything, the pain and fury kept exploding.
About 3 months after Alice came to my home, she was raging one day and happened to grab my Mary Plant. I jumped up to disengage her and told her that it was special to me, because it reminds me of my friend Mary, who had died. Alice froze. The screaming stopped. And she let go of the plant saying, “Mary DIED?” It was a stunning moment, as Alice had NEVER stopped mid-rage on her own. I drew her onto my lap and explained that I loved Mary and that she died in a car accident and my friend Lisa gave me the Mary Plant to help me remember Mary and to keep her in my heart. Alice repeated over and over, “Mary DIED?”
Over the next few days, Alice asked me again and again, “Tell Mary story.” So I repeated it again and again. I FINALLY got a clue one day and asked her if she knew anyone who had died. She nodded and said, “Gladys.” That was her mother. In that moment I told Alice that I think she is very sad because Gladys died. She nodded. I asked her if she wanted a Gladys planted. She nodded, then threw her little arms around my neck. We went to buy a Gladys Plant that afternoon.
Alice carried her Gladys Plant around EVERYWHERE for over a month. And she repeatedly asked me, “Tell Gladys story.” It became a mantra, “Gladys was a mommy who loved her little girl, Alice, very, very much. A bad person hurt Gladys and she died. So we got a Gladys Plant to remind Alice that her mommy loved her very much and that she will always be alive in her heart.” If I altered the words in any way, she made me start over again.