23 February 2006

In Memory Yet Green

Sometimes, being connected to the wired world is not the best thing. I was sitting in a board meeting in downtown Toronto on Saturday morning when my laptop burped to signal an email’s arrival. I looked down, saw the name of my son’s father, (my former husband but always friend) and the subject Requiem. And I knew what the message would say: that his beloved mother had lost her battle with cancer. Or maybe won it, as she is now at peace and pain free.

Tears flowed, to the astonishment of my colleagues. I dashed out to call my former husband, and try to find some words that would be of comfort and support. The memorial service is set for this coming weekend, in a beautiful community on Nova Scotia’s French shore, overlooking the sea. As Pete was there for me and my family when my father died last June, so will I be there for him and his family, including our son. To celebrate the life of a woman who genuinely was just about as close to an angel on earth as I’ve ever met.

On the flight back from Toronto, I mulled over Marilyn’s life and what I could possibly do that would pay honour and love to her memory, and bring some little comfort to those she loved. And then as I sat looking at a gardening catalogue, one with a butterfly on a flower, I knew what to do.

Our gardens here are flung like a child’s blocks around our property, a profusion of colour in various beds and borders. After the death of my much loved cat Nermal 6 years ago, I planted a rose bush in his memory, and buried his ashes underneath it. Then Timothy Findley, the author on whom I wrote my master’s thesis, died. Other cats, other people, friends of friends or family members, each received a plant, generally a hardy rosebush, placed carefully in the garden to honour their memory. For Timothy Findley, the hardy rosebush Franklin; then for his partner, who is very much alive, but who would want to be beside Tiff, Roserie de la Haie. For Tommy tiger the crabby Tabby, my husband’s beloved, obstreperous bobtail, the gloriously fragrant Snow Pavement. For a fellow writer’s cherished cousin Jeanette, the rose Agnes. And on and on. Portulaca for my aunt Joyce, Johhny-jump ups and lupins for my grandmother Chisholm.

And everywhere, everywhere, forget-me-nots for my father, lost in the fogs of Alzheimers.

For Marilyn, a butterfly garden, a dedicated bed with plants relating to and attractive to butterflies, because she so loved these ethereal, glorious “flying flowers.” I’ll get some young milkweed from a roadside spot I know, because it’s the favourite food of Monarch butterflies. And there will be at least one butterfly bush, probably several; the delightful yellow one I got last year at Ouestville Perennials, plus a deep purple variety, and perhaps a softer, pink type. I’ll move a chunk of rosy butterfly weed from the big border out back to this new planting, and add some Russian sage, some echinaceas, some of the deep scarlet bergamot bee balm that looks like roosters in the back garden.

A few fragrant annuals, tall nicotiana, purple heliotrope, phlox and stocks and maybe some wallflowers. Grape Hyacinths for next spring, miniature thalia daffodils too, and perhaps a magnolia, depending on where I site the garden—probably out back, looking down at the Bay. Definitely a fragrant, wonderful rose—one of the heritage varieties, after I see what Old Heirloom Roses has available this spring.

And because they’re everywhere, for everyone who has gone before us—more forget-me-nots.

It won’t bring this remarkable, kind woman back, this floral tribute and memory planting. But perhaps it will bring some joy to her family, and further peace into their hearts. In memory yet green…


  1. How beautiful. I have no idea who you are, I am new to this site. Reading this brought me to tears, thinking how wonderful for someone to remember another person that will live on. I know she is smiling down on you today with this generous gesture. I believe you are both angels.

  2. Thank you for your kind words, Joyce. I'm no angel, (or if I am, my wings are tattered and my halo decidedly tarnished) but we do what we can for those we care about, don't we?

    cheers, jodi

  3. Jodi
    A beautiful piece. I am thinking of you and your email to me privaltely. My mother in law Clara Hanna died of Parkinsons and dementia last September 12. She would have appreciated the forget me nots when she was well. My son Paul Hanna died on October 3rd. He was an enviromentalist and would have loved to be remembered by a tree being planted in his memory.
    Thanks again for your compassion.
    Hilda Young in Petawawa Ontario

  4. Can you imagine anything more flattering or more beautiful than having somebody plant a bed in your memory? I can't and am moved to tears at the thought.


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