Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Memories of a boy who loved fireflies June 30, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:06 AM
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A plaque marks the entry to Justin’s Memory Garden.

I NEVER IMAGINED, when I published a post here on June 16 about the Memory Garden which honors my nephew Justin, that you, dear readers, would so fervently embrace a sculpture from that garden.

But I suppose my enthusiasm for the little boy holding a jar of fireflies ignited in the words I wrote.

Now, because of that story and accompanying photos, five more gardens—four in southeastern Minnesota and one at a Colorado hospital—will become homes for the little boy.

My husband, Randy, and Little Justin on the back steps before I moved Justin to a spot on the patio by the brilliant pink wave petunias.

He’s already in my backyard, my Little Justin, as Justin’s uncle, my husband, calls the garden sculpture.

Every evening as darkness settles in, the fireflies in the jar begin to glow, reminding me of my nephew who died too soon of Hodgkin’s disease 11 years ago at the age of 19.

Fireflies glow in the sculpture I recently purchased in memory of my nephew Justin.

Says his mother, Vivian:

Justin liked watching fireflies, especially when sitting at a bonfire. He loved looking at the stars and he loved Christmas tree lights, especially blue ones. He would often holler, “Mom/Dad, come and look at the sunset,” or the rainbow, or “there’s a shooting star.”

He didn’t want us to plant a tree in a particular spot because it would ruin the sightline for the sunsets—we never have planted one there.

Though we never talked about it specifically, he enjoyed light, from the heavens, in various forms.

And so, when the mother of the boy who loved light and fireflies and the heavens, saw the “Lightning Bugs with Boy” sculpture in a brochure the day before Mother’s Day, she felt moved to purchase it for Justin’s Memory Garden.

“As I’ve gotten older, I follow those instincts more readily,” Vivian says.

It is the first sculpture she’s purchased for the garden that honors her son. The other garden art—a plaque, dove, angel and birth bath—have come from friends as have most of the plants.

That, she says, makes it a true Memory Garden.

If you’re one of the gardeners who has purchased/is purchasing a Little Justin, hold close this story and imagine the little boy who loved light and is now living in the light.

A close-up of my Little Justin’s endearing face.

FYI: Vivian and I both ordered our “Lightning Bugs with Boy” sculptures from our local True Value hardware stores, hers in Morris, mine in Faribault. My sculpture had to be shipped in from Oregon. The product cannot be ordered online from True Value, but if you would like to view it, click here.

© Copyright 2012 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