Hello fellow readers,
Once again, I write from Virginia and admit I’m weary. Witnessing a loved one suffer is heartbreaking; Mom’s most enormous suffering is from fear. When I arrived Saturday, her deep cough and spiked fever seemed inevitable. To soothe her, I began reading an abridged child version of The Secret Garden that was in the pocket of her wheelchair. Hard to imagine, I’ve never read this classic tale, first published in 1910.
The book once belonged to a child named Ashely; her name printed on the inside cover. First, in blue ink, then in pencil, which was crossed out and replaced by a bold red magic marker in a more mature printing. I wonder if Ashley read the book as many times as she signed it. And if the bright red was evidence, she grew to flourish, influenced by lessons so elegantly written by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Lessons that parallel those Mom has taught me and continues to teach as we journey through her last stages of dementia.
The lessons of The Secret Garden
The story stars Mary Lennox, an unloved girl born in India to wealthy British parents who didn’t want her. She becomes spoiled and selfish. Mirroring the treatment of her parents, she’s rude and arrogant as she crosses the ocean to live with an uncle she never met after her parents died in an epidemic. It becomes evident as the story unfolds that Mary’s arrogant ways were covering her fears. One scene, when she meets the housekeeper who discusses Mary as if she weren’t there, shook me to realize when we speak to caregivers about Mom, we often do the very same thing. Likely because Mom doesn’t seem to be there. But as of today, this stoic lady with more than nine lives seems to have licked the latest sure good-bye becoming chatty and somewhat audible, a drastic shift from the last few months. The lesson: Speak face to face to those you are speaking of; We all matter.
Mary grows to become a loving soul who helps a boy she discovered by following the cries she heard in the enormous mansion. Colin’s mother died when he was a baby while tending to her cherished walled rose garden. Colin’s father, distraught with grief, couldn’t deal with raising his son and assigned the task to servants. He locked the garden and buried the key. Much like a plant without sun, Colin became sickly and convinced he couldn’t walk and soon would die. He didn’t go outside as he feared of being laughed at. The lesson: No one should bully. We are all the same, seeking love.
As the story unfolds, both Mary and Colin flourish as they discover and rejuvenate the secret garden and, at the same time, rejuvenate themselves. The lesson: As we tend to things outside our sadness or worry, there’s healing joy and the promise of new beginnings. Garden Dilemmas? Askmarystone@gmail.com