It all started out as a birthday gift for my wife, Bobbie.

I bought her a beautiful, painted, concrete bear. It looked so real, and it was the size of a real bear. She loved it. I placed the bear in the center of a circular-shaped flower bed I had landscaped near our house. Then I added a miniature wooden windmill next to it. Then it looked so cool that we decided to plant roses around it. And last, but not least, I painted a big rock that was already there with the words “Bobbie’s Mountain” in black. I painted the background of the rock sky blue and drew a picture of Mt. Rainier in white. Afterward, we named our property “Bobbie’s Mountain.”

After Bobbie passed away from cancer in 2001, I made the spot a memorial garden. The thing I like the most about a memorial garden at home is that it is always right there at your fingertips. A personal memorial garden should be a private place to pray and think about your loved ones daily. It is not practical to visit a cemetery daily, unless you live close by. Even so, having a memorial in your own yard is very special.

I think every person should have a memorial garden in his yard or a simple arrangement in his home. A loving tribute to a spouse, relative, friend, or pet can easily be set up in the home. It does not have to be a shrine. A simple plant surrounded by some photographs or mementos may be just fine. Every person or pet deserves to be honored one way or another. It is a celebration of life, and it is spiritually uplifting. It creates powerful messages to your heart and your mind. It reflects a feeling of love and honor. It represents a time and a place in your precious life you will always remember. It brings comfort and joy to your heart and gently reminds you that this person was special in your life and that you will never forget him or her as long as you live.

If you have a yard, what a perfect reason to set up a memorial garden. It does not have to be fancy. A few plants and flowers and a simple homemade memorial marker carved out of wood is perfect. It would be a great theme for the perfect country garden. Just imagine how it would make you feel.

Exchanging plants with another friend or member of the family who also has a memorial garden can be a lot of fun. Make a party out of it.

Remember what your mom or dad liked or what your parent reminded you of, and add it to your garden. If your dad reminded you of an outdoorsman, then fishing gear, hunting gear, hiking gear, or camping gear might be appropriate to add to your garden. If he was a sports lover, then items from golf, baseball, football, basketball, soccer, or any other sport may be what you are looking for. If your dad was handy with tools, then make a memorial of him on your workbench and create a theme for your workshop; for instance, “Harold’s Workshop: In Memory of My Dad” would fit in nicely off to the side or on a pegboard. If your dad passed away and left you an old truck, hardly worth fixing, drill some big holes in the bottom of the truck bed for drainage, drop an inch of gravel to the base, and shovel on a heaping pile of topsoil, then have fun planting a memorial garden in his old pickup truck.

If your mom reminded you of gardening, put her favorite tools in your memorial garden and create a theme. When my mother passed away and we sold her house, I gathered up most of the plants and flowers she loved and hauled them over to my house. Then I carved a heart—shaped out of wood—painted it pink, and in red lettering I painted the words “Amanda’s Garden.” Suddenly, I had a memorial garden in memory of my mom. It was special because now I could tend the garden where she left off and keep the living plants alive.

If your mom was an outstanding cook, and you really are not the gardener she was or you do not have a yard, create the memorial inside your home—in the kitchen—by hanging a plate that says, for instance, “Dorothy’s Kitchen: In Memory of My Mom.” Any engraving shop can help.

When your brother or sister passes away, think of the things that remind you of him or her, then make a memorial out of those things. Your sister’s busy cell phone or your brother’s loud guitar or drums make great additions to a memorial.

The list goes on and on, but I am sure you get the idea. I got a little extravagant with my memorial garden, but I wanted to include my wife, my mom and dad, and my aunt and uncle. I bought a 30-foot flagpole and added the birthday gift I had given my wife when she was living: the painted, concrete bear. Then I bought a granite marker, almost the size of a headstone in a cemetery, and I had engraved the following words: “In loving memory of my wife, Bobbie Jean, my Yellow Rose of Texas, who affectionately named this land Bobbie’s Mountain. And to my aunt and uncle, Edith and Vernon Thomson, who made my dream home come true. And to my parents, Amanda and Hank Erickson, who gave me life and love.” Then I planted a couple Japanese maple trees, a couple hydrangeas and rhododendrons, some bear grass, and yellow roses with a crawling ground cover. It looks beautiful, and I am always right there to enjoy it. It gives me peace and comfort only I can explain.

Now it is your turn to get creative and make a memorial garden that will help you find peace and tranquility in your life, like mine has for me. After all, memorial gardens are divine.

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”, visit http://www.selfgrowth.com/greatways3.html

Author's Bio: 

Earl D. Erickson is a grateful recovering alcoholic. His love of writing inspirational stories brings him comfort and happiness, and he hopes his stories will help his readers to identify the struggles they have encountered in similar events in their lives. He is currently writing a book on his life and struggles with alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, suicide, grief, loss, and anger. His book is entitled Abstinence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder, and he hopes to be finished with that project early in 2007. He owns and manages five Web sites: http://SereneandSober.com; http://ComfortandLoss.com; http://BobbiesMountain.com; http://videosmusicandmore.com; and http://SqwearEnterprises.com.