Butterflies are believed by many to represent spiritual rebirth and transformation, a reminder that in the relatively short span of life, there is opportunity to live with beauty, grace and courage. On the day the Village at St. Clair officially dedicated the Florence Becker Healing Garden in memory of those who spent their final days with the Village community, the butterflies gently hovering over the new spring growth were a beautiful hint of hope.
As the Village’s Residents’ Council President Kaye Brown welcomed guests, team members and fellow neighbours (as the Village refers to residents), she spoke of the memories that inspired the healing space. She explained how the idea for the garden came to her in a dream in the spring of 2021, a few months after the Village faced the loss of so many residents during a severe outbreak of COVID-19. Like so many places around the world, the Windsor region was touched by immense sorrow when the virus spread so quickly during that wave of infection, and the Village family at St. Clair felt it deeply. Grief and loss, unfortunately, are a reality in long-term care environments so the idea of a place of reflection, reminiscence and healing made perfect sense as neighbours and team members discussed the idea.
The space was designed by the thoughtful inspiration of Schlegel Villages landscape specialist Adriaan Sizoo, and is named after a woman whose kindness and generosity continues to inspire her grandsons Rob, Brad and Jamie Schlegel, who own and operate Schlegel Villages. Before the early June skies opened up with rain, Jamie shared a little about his grandmother, who he said was her most authentic self when she was working in her large gardens. They were places of peace for her, Jamie recalls, and he has fond memories of his time with her as he helped sow seeds, pull weeds and harvest the bounty to be shared with the entire community around her.
The family, he said, was touched and honoured that this sacred space at St. Clair carries his grandmother’s name.
This garden, too, is a place of peace. The water that continuously flows near its centre represents life, the round shape of the garden represents infinity, while the rock in the centre represents longevity. The Eastern Redbud tree, with pink blossoms that open in the spring and its heart-shaped leaves, honours the love the Village feels for neighbours past, present and future.
“We need peace so we can come to the garden for quiet,” said Bishop Paul as he offered a prayer of dedication. “We need to let all things go so we can come to the garden for rest. We need hope so we can come to the garden to watch things grow, reminding ourselves to be planters and to enjoy what others have planted.
“We need community so we can come to this garden to give and receive a shared blessing.”
The sorrowful struggle through grief at the height of the pandemic is something so many in the healthcare field faced. There was anger in so many communities as long-term care providers worked tirelessly to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens, for many people were eager to find a place for blame, and a faceless virus wasn’t enough.
The trauma of such struggle will require an ongoing healing process, and the garden at St. Clair is but one symbol of this step. As the butterflies float in the breeze above this beautiful spot, we find space to remember those who came before us, reflecting on the gift of friendship and the opportunity to live with beauty, grace and courage.