2021 - April - Gazette - Tending Your Inner Garden

By: Jackie Naginey Hook
Thursday, April 29, 2021

Tending Your Inner Garden

Wow, each spring I’m surprised. I forget how beautiful things are as nature comes back to life and I’m filled with wonder again and again. The vibrant colors of flowering trees, bushes and plants, the special green of new leaves, the deep green of the grass, the blue of the robin’s eggs in the nest outside our front door. Every year it’s as if I’m seeing it all for the first time.

Then comes the desire to bring more of this beauty into our yard. Now that we’re mostly empty nesters, I look at our yard with new eyes and want to enhance it. But there the wonder stops and the dilemmas start. I prefer natural-looking landscaping and have learned that unfortunately natural-looking landscaping doesn’t just happen naturally. It takes skill, knowledge, creativity and commitment; things I don’t have when it comes to our yard. I think I’m meant to live in a little cabin in the woods where Mother Nature, not me, is responsible for the yardwork and gardening. Or maybe I need to ask for help from someone with the right skills.

Here’s another dilemma. I try to honor life in all that I do – it’s what my work is about. However, when it comes to manicured landscaping – even natural-looking landscaping – sometimes you have to sacrifice life. For example, unless a plant, bush or tree is dead, I don’t want to remove it. But that philosophy doesn’t always support vibrant and symmetrical landscaping. Maybe I need to provide extra care for the parts of the plants that aren’t thriving and let go of the parts that are no longer serving them.

Add “weeds” to this conundrum and it’s a third dilemma. Today I drove past fields of dandelions along Blue Course Drive and I thought they were brilliant! I appreciated their color, strength and resiliency as well as their nutritional and medicinal qualities. I wouldn’t mind welcoming them into our yard, but they don’t fit within normal landscaping plans and my husband wouldn’t appreciate them. Maybe weeds need to be viewed in a different way.

In my work around dying, death and grief, I find similarities between my thoughts about tending to my outer physical garden and how people tend to their inner ones. When we are grieving, we look around and see others with vibrant and full-color lives even after loss and we want to bring that to ourselves. Dying and grieving are natural human experiences, but sometimes we don’t know how to begin.

End of life used to be a more visible part of our daily living, but in the last century or so its moved behind closed doors. We rarely see others modeling how to do it. As a result, we fear dying, death and grief, and worry they only contain darkness. Just as I need to reach out to knowledgeable others to help grow my outer gardens, people who are nearing death and grieving need to have safe spaces to share and learn from others who’ve experienced the darkness and found light along the path. This support can help make inner gardens healthier.

I also find similarities in my work with my need to provide extra care to some parts of plants and let go of those parts that are no longer serving them. This process is undertaken on a regular basis for those who are dying and grieving. For example, as someone dies, they nurture those parts of their inner gardens that really matter and let go of those pieces that are no longer helpful. They repair relationships, offer and receive forgiveness, address unfinished business and release guilt and shame. These acts help add beauty and light to inner gardens.  

And finally, I find similarities in my work and how weeds are viewed. Many people think of dying and grief as weeds. I agree that they are painful, sad and not what we would choose. I also know they are part of what it means to be human and have something to show us when we make space for them. Weeds can add to inner gardens.

We invite you to the following gatherings where you can tend your inner gardens around dying, death and grief:

For more information, please visit the Bereavement Gatherings and Events page on the Koch Funeral Home website. To reserve your spot and receive the invitation links, email Jackie@JackieHook.com, call 814-237-2712 or visit the Koch Funeral Home Facebook page @kochFH.

Jackie Naginey Hook, MA, is a spiritual director, celebrant and end-of-life doula.  She coordinates the Helping Grieving Hearts Heal program through Koch Funeral Home in State College.  For more information, please call 814-237-2712 or visit www.kochfuneralhome.com.

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