Those of you who have read my book know that I ended it on the 10th anniversary of Margaret’s death by deeming an unkempt rose garden, Margaret’s garden. Every year since, I feed and prune the roses in an amateur but loving way, I plant various pink annuals around my angel statue in the middle of the garden and I do my best to keep it looking pretty just like my baby girl.
This year Glenn and I had really let our yard go between lacrosse games, track meets, pick ups at college, and weekends away. Our rose garden, in particular, since left unattended, had gotten extremely weedy. Each day in the spring as I drove up the driveway and turned to look at the rose garden, I would let out a sigh and mentally put it on my To Do list. However, just like the many paper piles in my office looked daunting and kept falling to the end of my To Do list, so too did tending the rose garden. Finally one Saturday in June my early riser, Lila, was away for the weekend, my teens were all sleeping and we actually had no plans. Having no more excuses, I threw on my ripped up jeans and trudged out to tend Margaret’s rose garden.
It had rained hard the day before so the tall weeds and tufts of grass unearthed easily. As I worked I could feel my heart beat slow and then I suddenly realized I was talking and I heard myself saying, “I am so, so sorry Margaret. What a bad mother I have been. I am sorry I have let the garden go. It does not mean that I don’t love you and think of you every day.” Hearing myself speak, I realized that no matter the circumstances, this conversation was an inevitable characteristic of motherhood. Even though my daughter had been dead for almost 16 years, I still, at times, find myself feeling guilty about how I mother her because guilt is a mother’s co-dependent partner from the moment of conception until eternity.
As I continued to weed, I felt sad by how much I had let her garden go but as I made progress clearing the weeds my sadness turned to pride and gladness. As I worked and talked to Margaret, I spotted a wren landing near me once, cocking its head, flying off and then landing right next to me again. I smiled feeling this wren must be offering me a message of encouragement just as the Robin encourages Mary in The Secret Garden. Then, as I uncovered a rose bush being strangled by weeds, a huge earthworm showed itself, and I had to stop and giggle. My grandfather had loved gardening and earthworms. After he died, my children and I would year after year carry a bounty of fresh vegetables from our garden and bring them to his grave. My children would talk to him and sing to him freely as if he was right there. I always loved how they kept him alive in those yearly ceremonies on his birthday.
There are many ways my family and I keep Margaret alive on her birthday, holidays and everyday of the year though tending this garden is more of a mom-daughter connection. As I weed I continue to talk to Margaret and tell her anything that comes to mind just as if I am sitting with oldest daughter, Elizabeth, sharing tea and chatting. This is something mothers and daughters do together.
On August 13 this year Margaret turns 16: A big milestone for a teenager. I wonder if she would have gotten her license right away since her older brother Martin still does not have his. I wonder if she would have a boyfriend and I wonder what her voice would sound like during our talk sessions since I have never heard it. I wonder if she would want a big party or just a family gathering and whether or not she would like ice cream cake or regular cake. Yes, I would rather have her here celebrating her 16th birthday, but I am thankful for the short time we had together and nature all around me reminds me that I am always there for her and she is always there for me just hiding in the flowers, the birds, the butterflies, the rainbows, the stars, but there. Happy Birthday Margaret, and listen hard because your siblings who can all sing better than me, will sing to you on your birthday and just maybe if they pause, look and listen, they will hear back from you.
Radio Interview with Robin Lentz Worgan about her stillbirth and her book on http://www.opentohope.com/your-loss/pregnancy-loss/: Your loss/ pregnancy loss. Tune in to know you are not alone in your grief and to honor the life of your baby.