And when great souls die, after a period peace blooms, slowly and always irregularly. Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us. They existed. They existed. We can be. Be and be better. For they existed.
-Maya Angelou

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Enduring Ties

One of the many special spaces at Ryan House is the Memorial Garden. It is a secluded and quiet place you enter (appropriately) through the Sanctuary Room. Along the walls of the Memorial Garden are beautiful hand-painted ceramic tiles, each uniquely decorated tile chosen by the family holds the name of their child who has passed away at Ryan House. For much of the last year I have been pestering everyone I know at Ryan House asking when Jack’s tile would be placed. The date was pushed up several times and with every delay, I felt both a sense of disappointment and urgency.

Last weekend, Jack's tile and the tiles of other children who have passed away in 2014 were finally placed. I went by Ryan House today to see Jack's tile. When I walked into the garden, Kasia, one of the CNAs who has been with Ryan House from the very beginning and who knows Jack well, was out there sitting with one of the children she was caring for. She smiled and gave me a warm embrace. She told me that she has been thinking a lot about Jack and showed me where his tile was on the wall. Compared to most of the tiles, Jack's is fairly plain - a simple white dove with a colored ribbon around its neck. But its simplicity makes it stand out among the more colorful tiles. I think it's beautiful and I feel a sense of peace knowing that it's finally up on the wall. Kasia shared with me that she spends a lot of time in the garden and when she's there she never feels sad, rather she feels the presence of all the children who have passed on and memories of them make her happy. It warms my heart to know that she remembers Jack and thinks about him when she's in the garden.

I’ve thought a lot about why it's so important for me to have a tile with Jack's name placed on the Memorial Garden wall. Ryan House's philosophy has always been “once a Ryan House family, always a Ryan House family”, so I know that I'm always welcome at Ryan House even though Jack no longer spends time there. I still stop by Ryan House every so often, usually when I have a friend in from out of town who I want to share Ryan House with. But since Jack died, there have been changes in staff and most of the people who are there now don't know Jack or me. I think that's why having Jack's name in the Memorial Garden means so much to me - it seals our connection with Ryan House. There's something very sacred about the place where your child died and that simple ceramic tile inscribed with Jack's name creates an enduring tie with Ryan House that can never be broken. No matter how many years pass, and regardless of whether there is anyone working there that I know, I will always have the right to enter the doors of Ryan House, walk down the hall, enter the Sanctuary Room (the room where Jack died) and pass through the door to the Memorial Garden where Jack is remembered by a beautiful white dove dancing on the wall. That permanent connection with Ryan House is something I need.

Kasia told me that next time I visit I should try and come by in the late afternoon, between 4 and 5pm, because a white dove regularly shows up and perches itself on the fountain located in the center of the garden around that time.

A white dove.

My heart.