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Getting Dirty:

How Gardening Boosts Memories of Loved Ones

Getting outside is healing. In fact, being outdoors has been proven to increase creative thinking, decrease stress, and heighten our senses.

With this in mind, why not take advantage of the sights and smells of nature to honor and celebrate the friend, spouse, parent, or sibling you never want to forget? Below are four of my favorite ideas for doing just that.

Create a Memory Garden. First, visit your local nursery to buy your loved one’s favorite herb, plant, or flower. Or, simply pick combinations of these that feature his or her favorite colors, tastes and smells. Second, add several “Love Rocks” to make this space even more special.

“Love Rocks” are easy and inexpensive to make. If you crochet or know someone who does, use wool or cotton from a loved one’s cherished sweater to make a simple net to cover a small stone. Or take a piece of fabric and cut it into the shape of a heart. (I like the idea of repurposing a shirt that belonged to your loved one, even a pair of jeans.) Next, glue the fabric heart onto a smooth stone with craft adhesive. Since the stones are going to be used outdoors, make sure to also use an acrylic sealer.

Create an Outdoor Refuge. Choose a quiet spot for remembering. After my father died, my stepmother longed for a relaxing and private space to think about my dad. She decided the best spot was also the closest; she cleared out a few weeds from her backyard and then bought an iron bench at a garage sale. That was about it. A refuge for silent reflection was born.

Building an outdoor refuge doesn’t require a lot of effort. You can use a chair instead of a bench or simply spread a blanket on the ground. The goal is to give yourself uninterrupted time for remembrance and a location to be alone with your thoughts. You can read more about this idea here.

Grow Daffodils. The bright yellow pop of daffodils reminds me of one of the most creative ideas I’ve come across for keeping memories of loved ones alive. Plant one daffodil bulb for every year your loved one lived. This is a great activity to involve friends, family, and neighbors. Not only will you benefit from the extra hands, you’ll be able to use the time to invite conversation and share stories about your loved one.

Daffodils are the perfect flower for such a happiness-inducing project; as perennials, they’ll come back spring after spring. They’re also virtually indestructible.

Establish a New Ritual. This final idea is for anyone who doesn’t want to get quite so messy. Every year I look forward to buying Forget Me Not flowers. These delicate blooms come in pink and white — as well as the familiar blue — and I place the terra cotta pot somewhere I’ll see all day.

During the time the flowers last, I enjoy the living, physical reminder of the relationships I had with those I’ve lost. During the course of writing Passed and Present, the poignant symbolism of this ritual really took hold of me, and I decided to call every strategy for remembering loved ones in the book Forget Me Nots. There are 85 Forget Me Nots in Passed and Present. Some involve planning and patience; others require hardly any effort at all. Each embraces the essential concept that moving forward doesn’t have to mean leaving your loved one behind.

Do you have a favorite gardening activity that makes you feel closer to your loved one? Share it with me here. I may feature your idea in my next newsletter, or on Facebook. And if you want even more warm weather ideas for strengthening memories of loved ones, read this post.

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