Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Joy in a memory garden April 27, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:16 AM
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Valentina's memory garden

MY FRIEND JOY lives up to her name.

Everything about her speaks to pure joyfulness. She’s always positive, happy, industrious, creating, caring, giving…

So Sunday, when I stop briefly at Joy’s house to shoot photos for a church project, I am taken with the evolving garden she is designing in honor of her granddaughter Valentina. With Joy, everything is a work in progress.

The memory garden, ringed with stones and rocks, is a testament to a grandmother’s love for the sweet baby girl who died two days after birth in 2006. Valentina’s twin, Samantha, lived.

Joy first showed me this developing memory garden several years ago. On this day, I am treated to a circle of blooming blue hyacinths and a cluster of blossoming white tulips. Also scattered in the hard soil are a few lonely white pansies. A white-budded tree hydrangea grows as a focal point inside the circle.

Joy’s garden, admittedly, needs some upkeep with dandelions and other weeds creeping into the space. But it’s easy to overlook that and focus on the love and thought that went into this small spot of earth.

My eyes gravitate to the word “COURAGE” that centers this garden.

“Why courage?” I ask.

Joy explains that Valentina means courage.

I marvel at how Joy crafted Brazilian agates into letters—C-O-U-R-A-G-E—carefully  placing the stones into concrete. I also marvel at how this determined grandmother and her son Dan, Valentina’s father, hauled hefty bags of Brazilian stones onto airliners and back to Minnesota so Joy could incorporate Valentina’s homeland into this memory garden.

There is so much love here, in this spot, in this earth. And even though Dan lives today in Brazil with his family, back in Minnesota, one grandmother holds close her precious granddaughter in a garden that exudes courage and joy.

Dandelions mingle with hyacinths in Valentina's memory garden. The rusted scissors adds interest. "I never throw anything away," Joy says.

Joy formed COURAGE from Brazilian stones.

Looking down into a cluster of blooming hyacinths.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


2 Responses to “Joy in a memory garden”

  1. Sara Says:

    This is such a neat entry and thank you for sharing. I can remember this when it happened and how heartbreaking it was.
    It is definitely a very touching tribute.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      You’re welcome, Sara.

      I know today is difficult for you too as it marks the one-year anniversary of your dad’s tragic death. Oh, how I miss his smile, his teasing, his sense of humor, his giving spirit…

      Everyone loved Marv.

      How my heart aches for you, sweet Sara.

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