From as far back as I can recall, I always followed my father around – I can remember having my own Play School wheelbarrow, shovel, and rake. I can remember sitting on the couch and asking him a million questions about the rules of football. I can remember being in the garage with him watching him check the oil in the riding mower, change a bike tire, and wax the car. I learned a ton of things from my dad, but the one I treasure the most is learning how to appreciate and care for the Earth – to respect creation – to marvel in its beauty. I know he would have loved Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si – Caring for our Common Home!
I have been writing this piece since the early spring – when the plants began to emerge from the winter soil and the sun burned longer into the night. I began writing this in my head because each and every year I am in awe of the miracles that happen in our gardens at my parent’s house in New Jersey. I never tire of watching the buds turn to flowers, never tire of watching the butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds feast on the pollen in those flowers, never tire of thinking of all the lessons my father taught me about planting, watching, pruning, composting so we could nourish the plants the next season, listening, protecting – enjoying the beauty of God’s creation.
It is my extreme delight to get my hands dirty and work and sweat in those gardens – to build up a few callouses due to pruning, trimming, shoveling, and raking – not to mention the ever present weeding! I find that this time alone in my father’s gardens is pure gift – it allows me to be with him, to listen, to remember, to smile, to wonder if he would be happy with how all his plants are doing, – to pray.
This time also allows me to cherish all the time we spent together working in these gardens – our conversations about life, family, plans, relationships, work, friends, service, but most importantly, faith. My father was a wonderful Master Gardener – he took classes, did the helpline at the agricultural center, went to people’s houses to give them advice on flowers and bushes – he loved it! The reason he was so great at this was because he knew who the real Master Gardener was – he knew who was really in charge of those gardens and he passed that onto me – a gift I will always cherish.
It has been 4 years since my dad left to meet the Master Gardener – 4 years of missing him every day – and yet, I feel his presence – I hear his voice – I see his smile – as a person with whom I respect very much always tells me, “it is a very thin veil between heaven and Earth.” Thank you to both of the Master Gardeners in my life – thank you for the gifts of Creation and most importantly, for the gift of love.