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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Garden (09/07/06)

TITLE: A Widow's Garden
By Birdie Courtright
09/13/06


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I felt as shriveled and dried up as the vines that crumpled in my hands as I plucked away at them. My garden was in perfect decay as was my soul. For weeks after my husband died, I’d watched it wither away from the bay window. I felt guilty at first, knowing just a little effort could return it to its grandeur. Not a drop of rain had fallen to relieve my neglect, and from my bay window I watched as the blossoms drooped, the foliage withered and the stalks fell quietly to ground like a grand parade for the hopeless.

Strangely, it was more a comfort to me in its abandoned state. I wasn’t the only thing on the planet that had no strength left to live. Forget the fragrance of life, life stinks. No more colorful bouquets, no more quenching showers from my watering can.

Whether the garden lived or died was the only thing I had control of during those first few weeks of widowhood. I wanted the emptiness I felt inside to reverberate through the universe. I had no tears, no will, and no appetite. I never wanted to smell another flower as long as I lived. Day after long bitter day I stood silently at the bay window and watched them all die, one by one.

When everything green turned to crispy brown, I stopped watching altogether. It seemed more fitting to listen to the grandfather clock ticking away my minutes with dead, dreary stalks scratching at the glass. No more little robins roosting on the statuaries, no more soothing green canopy clinging to the arbor. It was a finished work, as dead as my husband, as dead as my soul, as dead as dead can be.

Beyond the bay window, precious hours working side by side in silence became a vapor of memory too precious to relive. Maybe someday I would longingly look back on those treasured hours with fondness, but not yet. Now they were a deep part of the ache that consumed every waking hour.

Had a year really passed? I grabbed for another lifeless stalk and winced at the pain as a thorn pierced through the protective layer of my glove. The statuaries sold in the estate sale, and the arbor was torn down and cleared away by a neighbor kid needing a few extra bucks. I stodgily picked at the dead brush, until my back ached from the effort, and my tea glass ran dry. Determined to leave no trace of happiness behind, I’d worked well into the evening. An empty canvass, that’s what I wanted; bare ground and vacant pots. I brushed the damp dirt from my knees and called it a day.

Standing at the bay window the next morning, I surveyed the emptiness and made a decision. The first one in a year, I felt competent to make. I would begin again. There would be no one to ask opinions of, no one to pound the nails or cut the wood—would it be so awful to create a new garden, one that held no other imprint but my own? “God” I whispered, “let’s go to the nursery.”

Over the next two months, I worked furiously in the dirt. A pond, a stone path lined with forget-me-nots, lambs ear, thyme and trailing morning glories brought texture and color. An array of soft sweet blossoms unfurled each morning, begging the attention of butterflies and hummingbirds. Soon, the garden was teeming with life. Lady bugs, frogs and an occasional lizard stopped in to sample the ambience of my green thumb. It wasn’t long before I realized that I wasn’t working alone.

I had a constant companion who listened intently as I poured out life’s little problems while working fastidiously on my knees. The beds that had echoed my grief a year ago became the meeting place for God’s gracious moments of fellowship. On mud caked knees I surrendered the emptiness of my heart, to the Master Gardner. Slowly but surely new life began to push its way to the surface. As I surveyed the artistry from the bay window, I found what I could not have designed alone, a resplendent expression of peace.

There are still times when the absence of his face behind mine in the bathroom mirror feels overwhelming. It’s then I hear the cooing of the doves beckoning me to the garden, where I am reminded that there is another who waits to fill my heart.


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This article has been read 1119 times
Member Comments
Member Date
geoff anderson09/15/06
Brilliant. Using the decaying garden as a living metaphor of the woman's emotional emptiness is vivid. It reminded me of Beauty and the Beast, where the withering rose he gave to Beauty reflects the Beast slowly dying. How true it is that in bereavement our whole world dies around us as our heart shrinks and our soul goes into suspended animation, waiting for hope once more to awaken in us.
For a moment I objected to the abruptness of this reawakening in your story (forgive me referring to it as a 'story' if it is your personal experience) but then recalled that in my experience of counselling bereaved people, the rate of healing varied enormously, and in at least one case was indeed abrupt, like a veil being suddenly lifted.
And I liked the ending, the way she found God working with her in creating her new garden. I was worried for a moment when she declared it would be HER garden. I know the widowed have to start afresh, alone, but I was comforted when it became clear that she recognised that in time she'd be able to remember with fondness the garden (and life) that she had built and tended with her husband. The new garden wasn't going to replace the old completely, but be a new, secure, God-filled place where she could recall and relive the former, husband-filled garden.
Thank you for this article.
Judy Anderson09/15/06
This article touched my heart. It is both poignant and hopeful. Sometimes a firm decision after a time of grief can set us on the right path and the garden analogy was perfect. Thank you!
Marilyn Schnepp 09/15/06
Absolutely beautiful! I loved this piece, the message it brought, and the peace it brought to my soul. A new beginning...really well done!
Venice Kichura09/15/06
Masterfully written & so beautiful! My heart goes out to you as I know the pain my mom endures as a widow. Praise God He's brought you through. Excellent entry!
Jan Ross09/16/06
A most excellent entry! Very, very good! I'd be surprised if this doesn't place! God bless! :)
Sharlyn Guthrie09/19/06
I am so glad that I found this! I have known this kind of pain only through a sister and a close friend, but I know what you describe will strike a chord with many. The ending is very encouraging to those who may still be hurting.
Verna Cole Mitchell 09/20/06
The descriptions are wonderful all through this piece.
Joanne Sher 09/21/06
What a wonderful story of mourning and recovery - of losing one love and gaining another! This is truly masterful!
william price09/21/06
Beautiful job, Birdie. I'm glad our story was recognized. God bless.
jean Clarkson10/03/06
Well written. Not only do you help us experience the grief, but also you demonstrate how she workes through it and how God comforts us. Thank you for writing this.