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Lessons from My Mother's Gardens

Updated: Sep 10

My mother passed away exactly one week after the beginning of Spring 2020. In the days following her passing I often found myself walking the grounds of her gardens as I reflected on this precious life that I so deeply missed. One of her favorite spaces in the yard was an area she called her "Quiet Garden". It lines the fence in the front of the house and is filled with various flowers including her regal orchids and inspiring pieces of art nailed to the wooden boards. While she was known for her vivaciousness, my mom also had a quiet side to her personality and being in this garden reminded me of that part of her spirit that loyally kept everyone's secrets in a vault. It also reminded me of the way she quietly worshipped God as she dug into the ground to plant, feed and grow new life. In the back of the house is her luscious rose garden bursting with proud, vibrant shades of reds and pinks accompanied by the soft, sweet fragrance that fills the air. This garden speaks to me of the pride that she had in her family, her pride in being a woman...a black woman, who knew she stood on the shoulders of greatness. Just past the roses are her vegetable and fruit gardens which, at the time, were loaded with fresh greens, herbs, grapes, strawberries, lemons, plums and apples. Being in this garden made me think about mom as the great nurturer and the phenomenal cook who would suddenly venture outside to pick fresh veggies and whip up a culinary work of art for those she cared for...and she cared for so many! For example, she always had a warm meal for the gardener when he came to help her pull weeds from around the plants. She made cakes for the Orkin man when he would come for extermination services and of course, delivered fresh fruits and vegetables to her friends. She was a giver and loved showing her appreciation for others however she could. And in early Springtime, all of this well cared for life was on full display - in all its glory! As I grabbed one of her plums off the tree and bit into it, I could hear her voice from a conversation we had about this time last year, "Adriane! You wouldn't believe how sweet these plums are this year!" While I know her plants must miss her voice and loving touch, the fruits of her labor managed to maintain their sweetness...just the way she would have wanted. After all she invested into her gardens she wouldn't want her plants to shrink, hold their heads low and whither away with her physical absence. No! She would want them to thrive, grow stronger, brighter, bolder, sweeter and even more beautiful after she left.

This revelation made me think about each of the people she held dear in her heart. She nurtured each of us the way she did the plants in her garden. When we needed a word of wisdom she was sending the perfect book filled with suggested highlights and bookmarks. When we needed an ear, she was always there to listen to our stories (and she loved all the details!). When we needed a laugh she knew how to find a way to weave in her humor with perfect timing, wit and a touch of sass. It is my belief that if you knew her and were loved by her, you too are forever a part of Barbara's Gardens. Her genuine care, in the many ways that she showed it, watered our souls and reminded us, even during the toughest times, that God's love is real and has the power to penetrate our hearts through the love acts of others.

In the week following her transition, I asked several of mom's friends and family members to send me a personal tribute to her. Unfortunately, due to technical difficulties, we were unable to share the video at the funeral, but since then, I have been able to collect photos and videos from those who participated in order to create a piece that would capture the love even more! It's been 6 months since her services but I hope the piece below will help conjure up warm memories of the life, the love and the warm nurturing spirit of my mother, Barbara Johnson Hopper.



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