The other week, we stopped by a field of sunflowers on our way home. This isn’t just any field of sunflowers… it is a memorial called Prayers from Maria. Each year for the past five years, this field has been planted with hundreds of sunflowers. Towards the end of every summer, they bloom into their full glory. I’ve seen this covered on the news each year since moving to Ohio, but this is the first time that I had set foot there in person.
So what is special about this place? It was started because of death, and because of love. Because of the death of a beautiful daughter to a family, who lost a battle with childhood cancer. What has unfolded now is a powerful place for so many to come to have a moment of quiet. What I didn’t realize before stepping through the field, is that there would be notes and prayers, written on cards they provide, tied gentle to the stalks of the flowers.
As we first entered the main path through the flowers, I was completely overwhelmed by all the messages. Many of them were messages to loved ones who have died. Not just children that died from cancer, but moms and dads and grandparents and friends and spouses. It was beautiful and terrible all at once. The further we walked, the more there were. Message after message. Row after row. So much loss. So much death. But also… so much love. So much deep, enduring, beautiful love.
This memorial also raises money to do research on the particular type of cancer Maria had – which is rare, aggressive, and has very little research support. I couldn’t help but to think of her family, and how much meaning and beauty has been brought into their world by sharing this grief journey with so many others.
This experience has stayed with me the past few weeks. It reminded me of just how powerful shared experiences of grief are. It reminded me of Soaring Spirits, and of Camp Widow, and of how much it has helped me on my own journey with grief to be a part of a shared grief experience. I think there is something about sharing that pain that transforms pieces of it into beauty and love and goodness in a way that nothing else can.
We didn’t visit long. After about 10 minutes, it began to rain, and we went on our way. But that brief moment has stayed with me, just as each brief moment of shared grief has over the past 7 years. I’m reminded and grateful of the chance to share pain with others, and in turn, share love with them too.