2013 22 April

The Garden Remains

Posted in Steinbach United

New post on Moderator Gary Paterson

For the last two weeks I have been sitting by my mother’s side in the palliative care ward at Victoria General Hospital as she journeyed to the end of her time…which finally happened on Friday. However, earlier last week, when Tim was keeping watch, I decided to visit my parents’ former home—a bungalow in Victoria, a block from the ocean, looking out over the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the place where they had finally settled in 1973 when my father left the army. Not the house I grew up in, but where my own children had come to know and love their grandparents—a home filled with memories of beach adventures, card games, books, and puzzles; of cookies and elegant teacups and saucers; of a garden filled with the smell of sweet peas and roses; of the bird bath and feeder, always alive with wings.

Four years ago, my parents sold this house and moved to a seniors’ independent living complex. Now, there was a new house on their property, looking strangely modern, filled with strangers. As I slowly drove down the old street (more of a one-block lane than a street), a child left the neighbourhood playground, crossed the road, and headed toward this new house; a young man was watching her carefully. I stopped, rolled down the window, and asked, “Is that your home? Is she your daughter?” “Yes,” he replied.

And so began a brief conversation, with me sharing that my mother, who had lived there for 35 years, was now dying. I told him how much my daughters had loved visiting their grandparents. He told me that his two little children loved the neighbourhood—that’s why they were there, to raise a family. I asked about the garden in the backyard that my mother had created, her joy. “Did you save the garden?” “Yes,” he said.

He told me that he and his wife were both architects. After purchasing my parents’ home, but before doing anything else, they and their kids had camped out in the backyard for a few days in order, he said, “to get a feel for the land, the movement of sun from the morning to evening, to understand what might be possible to create in this space.” Only then did they start dreaming and planning how to build their home, figuring out how to incorporate elements of what was already there. They needed a different house, for in truth, my parents’ bungalow was small, old, and plain. But they kept the backyard pretty much as it had been. The garden remained; a pond was added (which my parents had often thought about doing but never got around to) because of the poor drainage in the back corner; the rose bushes out front had been carefully dug up and moved to the back; the garage had been designed so as to not disturb the apple trees.

So…the old house had changed, but parts of the old were treasured and incorporated, and a new home was filled once again with the laughter of children and sweet garden smells. It was a good moment.

Change is always part of our living. Yes, there is the inevitable sadness of loss and goodbye; but there is also a pleasure in discovering how what emerges incorporates and reshapes elements of the past, so as to bring forth a new way that is full of life. Maybe I am too “churched,” but it felt to me like a metaphor for what our United Church is experiencing—the old house will be torn down, but only after a thoughtful “comprehensive review,” not losing everything, but redesigning so as to rediscover beauty and recreate a home where the next generation can thrive. That’s my hope and my prayer.

For more of the Moderater Gary Peterson’s blogs visit: http://www.garypaterson.ca/