Memories & Milestones: July 5 – 11

Here’s some dates to celebrate, from the new weekly column, MEMORIES & MILESTONES.

JULY 5-11

PT BarnumJuly 5, 1810: P. T. Barnum’s Birth Anniversary

“Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages…” It’s the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’, enjoyed by roughly 30 million people each year.

Much of the early success of this popular circus is due to a man born over 200 years ago. A consummate showman and brilliant promoter, he once said, “If I shoot at the sun I may hit a star.” He found his fame. PT Barnum’s legacy continues to bring laughter and enjoyment to boys and girls and children of all ages.

July 8, 1911: Nan Jane Aspinwall’s Grand Feat

In a year when American women didn’t have the right to vote yet, Nan Jane Aspinwall set out on a historic journey. She was the first woman to cross the United States on horseback. She covered 4,500 miles in 301 days. Why? Why, to deliver a letter from San Francisco’s mayor to New York City’s mayor, of course.

July 9, 1893: First Open Heart Surgery

With all the medical advancements this century, it’s amazing to realize that the first open heart surgery occurred well over a hundred years ago. Dr. Daniel Hale Williams operated on James Cornish, who suffered from a severe stab wound to his chest. The patient not only survived the surgery, but lived for many years following this groundbreaking surgery.

July 11, 1960: To Kill a Mockingbird Published

On this date 55 years ago, Harper Lee’s first and only book was published. To Kill a Mockingbird is a best seller, selling over 40 million copies since its publication. It was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and became an Oscar winning movie in 1962.

Overshadowing this milestone date, is Harper Lee’s second book, due out July 14, 2015. With a release date within days of this 55th anniversary, Go Set a Watchman is already a bestseller. Before it’s even been released.

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A Memory Garden with no Plants?

What? You can’t garden you say. Your thumb is perpetually brown, not a green sprig in sight?

That’s okay. You can still have an area where you pay tribute to your loved ones that have passed. You can use statuary, stepping stones, garden signs, flags, windmills, chimes, bricks painted with their names – the possibilities are endless.

Here’s a short excerpt from MEMORY GARDENS: Botanical Tributes to Celebrate our Loved Ones (just released at Amazon this week) to give you some ideas.


MG_heart stumpWhat? You say you don’t have room for a garden? You don’t have a place to put any potted plants? Nothing grows there? You don’t have a green thumb?

It is possible to have a beautiful memory garden area without a single plant. Thousands of concrete and polyresin pieces exist, with loving sayings, angels, rainbows and a multitude of symbolic meanings that can create a memory area at your house, on a patio, in a corner of a room, or on a mantle. Angels in every form or fashion you can imagine are available. Pick up any mail order catalog. Do an internet search. Possibilities abound with something you can use to create a special space for our loved one.

Were they an ocean lover? Fill a basket, or a planter area, with sea shells, driftwood or pieces of smooth edged sea glass.

Were they a bowler? An old bowling ball or a bowling pin inscribed with their name will fill your memory area with special thoughts.

Look around your house or your yard. Find a corner, a niche, an area that you can fill with mementoes that bring your special loved one to mind. It may take a weekend. It may be an ongoing project that you keep adding to as you go along. When you spy that additional little trinket that brings your loved one to mind, think of them as you purchase it and bring it home to add to your collection. Their memories remain alive in your remembrance. Cherish the memories that return to you unbidden, even though they are sometimes painful and saddening. Our tears and emotions keep our feelings alive, and the connections with our loved ones open.

A to Z: ‘W’ is for WHY?

It’s April! That means it’s time for the ‘BLOGGING A to Z CHALLENGE’. Everyday this month (except Sunday) bloggers will be blogging to a theme, using different letter of the alphabet – running, of course, from A to Z.

I’m blogging about MEMORY GARDENS: botanical tributes to celebrate our loved ones. Most of my writing is about keeping memories alive, so a spring garden is a perfect match to celebrate loved ones memories. Come join us all month for 26 different posts about Memory Gardens … and then, maybe plant your own tribute to remember your own special person.


A to Z: ‘W’ is for WHY?

Planting a Memory Garden is a very special tribute to honor the memories of a loved one, or loved ones. It is a way to have a living reminder, where seeing the plant, tending to it and enjoying the beauty of flowers or fragrance brings your loved ones to mind.

Your Memory Garden can be anything you want it to be. It can be as simple as one plant or one stepping stone to honor someone’s memory. It may be a small corner with a few plants and possibly a piece of statuary. It can also be a more elaborate, full-blown garden with many plants, possibly a winding path and perhaps a small bench or seating area to sit and reflect. Your garden can be any size you wish it to be, according to the space and land you have available, and the number of plants you wish to maintain.

A Memory Garden can be a place of solace, a place to remember and heal. It is a gift you give yourself, a living legacy of memories and love.

A memory garden is just that, a place to recognize and honor memories – the memories of our loved ones.

A garden is a living memorial for us, the living. It does not bring them back. It does not remove our pain or grief, although for many it does help soothe and soften the grieving.

The planning, the gardening, the caring for living plants nurtures our souls. It is a way for us to say — Here. I place this plant, or this stepping stone, or this statuary, in your honor and memory. It is a symbol. It is a symbol of my love for you. I cherished you in my life. I miss you. I will remember you.

I believe they see our tributes. I am a firm believer in the afterlife, and that our loved ones still know what is happening in our lives. I have too many unexplained coincidences in my own life and experiences that confirms it for me. Does it help to believe my brother is here, that he is sending a message, that he is still involved in my life, yet I can’t see him? Some days, yes! It is comforting. Some days, absolutely NO! I want to see him, I want to give him a hug, I want to sit down and have a cup of coffee with him. But I can’t do that. And sometimes I still get angry about that.

Grief is not a static emotion. It is not a one-way path. We do not walk the pathway of grief, one step at a time, to the end, where we reach ‘non-grief’. We waver. We’re back and forth. Some days we’re good. Sometimes we drift along towards healing. We go on and live our lives. (We have to. We have no choice.) And other days, there will be one memory, one song, one fragrance, one thought – and we are suddenly back to a painful place that we thought we’d left behind.

Just remember this, on the path of grieving NO ONE’S path is the same! None of us will have a journey exactly like another’s. Don’t let anyone tell you what’s ‘normal’, or what’s ‘not normal’. Follow your own heart. Follow your own healing.

Yes, go on living. Definitely do so, as we are still alive. But we can do that while keeping the memories sacred and honored.

I take comfort in the actions of caring for zinnias, believing that my brother will know that when I tend to them, I’m thinking of him. When I tend to the red rose, I’m thinking of Grandma Jones. When I clip the carnations, I’m thinking of Grandpa Jones.

For many years, families were the caretakers of loved one’s gravesites. The whole day was spent there, often with picnics. A celebration was created around the loving care of the final resting places. Nowadays, some people still do this, but not many. I loved to take flowers to the graves of loved ones at Christmas. Now, I’m too far from any of them to be able to do that. So tending the plants in my backyard is a way of making that connection. And that I can do every day, not just on holidays and honoring special dates.

Why plant a memory garden? For our own healing. For our own souls. For a tribute to the ones we loved that no longer walk this earthly planet with us.


A to Z: ‘U’ is for U CAN DO IT!

It’s April! That means it’s time for the ‘BLOGGING A to Z CHALLENGE’. Everyday this month (except Sunday) bloggers will be blogging to a theme, using different letter of the alphabet – running, of course, from A to Z.

I’m blogging about MEMORY GARDENS: botanical tributes to celebrate our loved ones. Most of my writing is about keeping memories alive, so a spring garden is a perfect match to celebrate loved ones memories. Come join us all month for 26 different posts about Memory Gardens … and then, maybe plant your own tribute to remember your own special person.


A to Z: ‘U’ is for U CAN DO IT!

You can do it!

You can add a memory garden one step at a time. You don’t need to accomplish the whole undertaking in one weekend. Start out with a plan. What can you do? A whole plot? One plant? Determine what you can do and make a plan. That’s a start! Hooray! Celebrate your accomplishment. You’ve made a decision and a plan.

Then, decide what your next step is. Do you need to clear an area? Get a planter? Buy a brick to pain?

One step at a time, that’s all it takes. Celebrate your accomplishments and know that your loved ones recognize your love and your efforts to honor their memory.

See, you CAN do it!

you can do it_skyline

A to Z: ‘S’ is for SAGE

It’s April! That means it’s time for the ‘BLOGGING A to Z CHALLENGE’. Everyday this month (except Sunday) bloggers will be blogging to a theme, using different letter of the alphabet – running, of course, from A to Z.

I’m blogging about MEMORY GARDENS: botanical tributes to celebrate our loved ones. Most of my writing is about keeping memories alive, so a spring garden is a perfect match to celebrate loved ones memories. Come join us all month for 26 different posts about Memory Gardens … and then, maybe plant your own tribute to remember your own special person.


A to Z: ‘S’ is for SAGE

SAGE – Wisdom, Great Respect, Alleviates Grief

SAGE (Blue) – I Think of You

SAGE (Red) – Always Yours


Common Name:                      SAGE

Botanical Name:                      Salvia

Height:                                    1’ – 6’, S. officinalis (common sage) 2 ½’

USDA Hardiness Zone:          Zones generally 5-9, Common broadleaf zones 4-11

Sun requirements:                   Most want full sun

Water Needs:                           Most like aridity

The Road that leads to Medlin

“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Benjamin Franklin wrote in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy in 1789.  A few people may believe that they’re exceptions on the tax part of that statement.  But the part about death … no one’s proven him wrong about that yet.  Death is the one common denominator that none of us can escape and it’s touched all of our lives, some more than others.

Those that share the resting place of Medlin Cemetery in Trophy Club, Texas can attest to that.  But the roads that led them all to the same resting place are so very, very different, as I discovered on Christmas Day 2008 during a mid-day cemetery hop.

The road to Medlin Cemetery began over 150 years ago.  Charles Medlin and twenty other families came toDenton Countyand formed Medlin Settlement, later called GardenValley, on Denton Creek.  When floods broke up Medlin Settlement, they moved to higher ground and formed a new neighborhood that would grow into the town of Roanoke.  Charles’s daughter, Mittie Ann loved the beauty of the small hill where Medlin Cemetery lies.  She said she would like to be buried here.  Mittie Ann Harris died in childbirth on April 5, 1850, at the age of 21.   Charles buried his daughter on the hill she admired overlooking the rolling hills of North Texas and thus began Medlin Cemetery.

As illness, tragic accidents, and old age visited the settlement, more people joined Mittie Ann at the top of the hill.  We know the stories of some of the people, most of the people we don’t know about.  Some are memorialized for a period of time with markers indicating names, dates of birth, and dates of death.  Families of more means embellished the markers with more details, such as familial relationships, or phrases such as beloved.   Scriptures or poems were often added to markers, much as we practice today. Pictorial images of doves, lambs, hearts, crosses and bibles were also common.  Some graves were marked with less permanent memorials of wood or softer stone.  Time and the elements has taken their toll and erased the names and dates and we no longer know whose body lies there.  Sometimes only a stone was placed and all we know is that someone was buried there.  Were they male or female?  Were they young or old?  Nothing is known to us.  Multitudes of graves across the world have lost even these markers and all evidence of their existence has long ago evaporated.

While walking around Medlin Cemetery, paying my respects and honoring the lives of those here before us, one grave marker in the corner caught my eye and my heart.  Charlie Earle Smith (September 10, 1888- August 23, 1890), a little boy just less than two years old.  He lays here all by himself, at the edge of the graves, no other visible family members around him, no one buried past him.  Why did he die so young?  So many possibilities exist.  It was possibly an illness such as influenza or pneumonia, possibly something genetic that couldn’t be found at that period of time, or possibly an accident such as snakebite or drowning.  Why isn’t more family buried around him?  Did he have any brothers or sisters?  Did his parents (A.M and M.H.) leave the area after his death?  So many questions, and all unknown, except for his name.  Lisa, who was cemetery visiting with me that day, found some flowers that had blown away from where they were originally placed.  They were lying all alone and she was unable to determine where they belonged.  She placed them on Charlie’s grave, a tribute to a life that once lived in Medlin Settlement, albeit a very short life.

I’m drawn to the older portions of a cemetery.  There’s something about the passing of time, the hundred or so years that have passed …. And all that remains are these monuments.  The people that shared the memories of these lives lived have since passed, taking their memories with them.  There may be old photographs of them remaining, but if there are any around, chances are they’re sitting in an antique store, probably not even with a name on it.

Though my heart is drawn to the older sections of a cemetery, I still walk through the newer parts.  At one corner of Medlin I was drawn to two graves, close to one another.  One was marked with a magnificent stately rock; a huge stone with the plaque attached to the center of it.  The gentleman had passed, leaving a poem immortalizing his love for his wife.  Being a poet and having his given name and pen name on the plaque, we thought we could find something about him on the internet.  Amazingly, Lisa discovered him and he had quite a history as a writer and poet, including work on 80 episodes of Ghostbusters in 1975 and 1986, as writer, creator and associate producer.  Being ghosthunters ourselves, of a more novice standing, it was quite fitting to discover him there.

About 20 feet away from the poet/writers grave was a marker with a beautiful rainbow on both sides that had caught my eye as I approached the corner.  The marker piqued my interest and I took several photographs of it.  The girl laying here was a young girl of 25 years.  After losing a brother at age 35 and a step son at age 24, I feel sadness when I see others that have passed so young also, before they really had a chance to live their lives fully.  Since this young girl had passed in 1989, I was curious to see if there was something on the internet about her.  I thought there may be some obscure article about a high school sports team or something relatively insignificant.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that she was killed by a serial killer inKansas.  A book had been written about her death and the death of two other girls, whose bodies were never found.  I was puzzled about how she ended up in a small Texas cemetery if she lived inKansas at the time of her death.  I thought maybe her parents lived here in Texas. Reading about it in the book revealed that her parents lived about twenty minutes from her in Kansas.  Further reading indicated that the man accused of the murders was apprehended at DFW Airport.  Why did he come here to fly away?  There are plenty of accessible airports between here and Kansas, why here?  And how and why did she end up here in the same locality, although she was originally buried in Kansas, where she lived and died?  It was very puzzling to say the least.  A little more research showed that her father died here in Keller 24 years later and he is buried at the same cemetery.  I believe he’s buried next to her, although there isn’t a current marker there with his name.  I am puzzled by all of this, and intrigued by her life, although 20 years have passed since her last breath.  Sometimes the memories we leave on earth remains in ways most unexpected, like a trail of cryptic crumbs for those in the future to find and ponder about.

July 2022

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