Amaya Garden
I visited my new friends Coco and Amanda in their home on Tuesday. Last June was the one year commemoration of their one year old baby Amaya who passed away due to a heart defect that she experienced from birth. The whole experience was a traumatic one for both of them. Since the passing of Amaya, life as they described it has changed. I could only imagine the pain of losing a beloved child, something that must be unbearable for any parent. So, I came to visit with the intention to comfort them and pray with them and also check out the garden that Coco and Amanda built in memory of Amaya.
The couple took me to see Amaya’s memorial wall by the fireplace with her pictures and framed foot print and all kinds of momentos. From there I got a chance to visit Amaya’s room that was left exactly how Amaya had left it. As we walked, Coco and Amanda told me stories about Amaya’s journey from birth, her hospitalization for months, how she was released from the hospital and was able to celebrate her first and last holidays last year without any serious hospital visits until the day she passed away. I only met Amaya twice. One time was at church after she was released from the hospital and the second one when I was officiating her memorial service. So, I could not remember much about her. The only thing that stuck with me was the way she smiled and the look in her eyes. Amaya had this piercing look from her round big eyes that could melt any heart of those who came in contact with her. And of course, her cute grin that somewhat told me, “Don’t mess with me, I am cute!” 🙂 All the photos I saw reminded me again of this little “Wonder Woman” who fought so hard for her dear life.
The highlight of the day was the Amaya Garden located in her backyard. Amanda told me how she learned gardening from zero after Amaya’s death because she wanted to have something to do to remember her. She transformed what once was an abandoned backyard with four feet tall weeds all over into a luscious garden with all kinds of green vegetable plants; all put in order. They look like a mini version of a professional vegetable farm. At a glance I recognize tomatoes, corn, kale, squash, and other kinds of green veggies that I don’t quite recognize. On the other side of the vegetables section, there were about seven or eight big pots of citrus trees. “Just watch, in two years that section is going to look like a jungle!” Amanda said jokingly. I laughed. I was very impressed with what I saw. That’s not it, Amanda said. And she took me to her deck where all kinds of boxed colorful flowers were growing. Bunch of little colorful spring flowers, which I don’t even know the names, came in many varieties were planted in small boxes.
“People may think that we are crazy, but I don’t care”, Amanda said, as we ended our tour and reflected upon what we had seen. “I can’t take care of Amaya, but I can take care of this garden, bringing to life whatever I can. You know, Vincent, these plants are rescue plants. I bought all these plants so cheaply from Home Depot. They were in the “last chance” section where the store no longer wanted to put these plants on display because they were almost dead. And believe it or not, 97% of them I was able to rescue. Taking care of this garden is like taking care of Amaya. I find my peace here. Occasionally, I noticed from the breeze, the heart shaped clouds, or from the appearance of dragonflies around the garden that Amaya is saying hello to me.”
As she spoke, I was reminded by what Richard Rohr, a catholic priest, says in one of his books: If we do not transform our pain, we will most assuredly transmit it. If we cannot find a way to make our wounds into sacred wounds, we invariably give up on life and humanity.” What I witnessed in front of me was a couple who embraced their pain and the “darkness” of life, wrestled with them, and transformed them into hope and life; an abandoned backyard into lush garden, dead plants into fruitful greens, grieving souls into joyful ones.
“And you know the best part of it, it’s funny… as the garden produces all kind of fruit and vegetables that we can eat, we feel like Amaya is still present with us, being part of our family as we eat the gifts of this garden.” I thought to myself, what a beautiful imagery! Isn’t that what we do as church when we take communion with Jesus? As Jesus gave the bread to his disciples during last supper, he said: “This is my body broken for you, take this and remember me.”
A lot of people who must walk in the darkness, get trapped in the darkness itself, so lost and unable to get out of it. But Coco and Amanda are walking in the darkness on the loss of Amaya, but they are able to take hold of that darkness, embrace it and learn to deal with it; transforming it into the light that made them closer to the true Light: God.
Have you ever been in a situation where you wanted to comfort a person but ended up being the one who gets comforted? Yes, that was me last Tuesday 🙂
“See, I am doing a new thing!” Says the LORD.”Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19
Love and prayers,
Vincent Arishvara 07272017