Introducing Ava’s Grove

This grief journey is complicated.  It is isolating, dark, harrowing, terrifying and at times completely bewildering.  The tiniest interaction can burn the skin yet I carry with me a full suit of armour, a protective knowledge that tints my perspective and makes me stand resilient in the face of tremendous stress and heartbreak.

I have learned many lessons the greatest of which is, I get by with a little help from my friends.
My tribe.  My women, my warrior friends that get the snark glance of my eye and the intonation to my voice to such a degree I do not have to explain why.  The ones I email or text in the middle of the night when the grief closes in and I feel it’s icy grip pulling me downwards once again. 
And the women I call my own at Elgin Loss Peer Support.
It all began last Christmas, when an opportunity came to me to have our small grief group participate in the local Holiday Fantasy of Lights.  It was magical.  We pulled together, received sponsorship, and decorated a tree in our local park with beautiful white lights.  On the day that the lights were to be turned on all our families gathered together.  Tears caught in my throat as I watched siblings, mothers, fathers and grandparents decorate the tree with home made and perfectly chosen ornaments.  It was beautiful. Simple.  Perfect.  
And then something surprising happened.  Wee ornaments kept joining the tree.  Over the course of the month that the lights were on, more families dropped by and placed their own ornaments to remember their children that had passed as well.  Families we did not know.  On Christmas Eve I received word from the coordinator of the Holiday Fantasy of Lights telling me he had seen families sit vigil around the tree and comfort each other all season long.
It got me thinking… what happens when the lights turn off? What happens when we have to give this space back to the park and go on our way.   Surely what we created there wouldn’t simply disappear. And it didn’t.  Our families continued to gather, continued to meet and picnic and talk about last Christmas with joy in their eyes.  Joy!  For loss families, that just doesn’t seem possible.  
This September it was announced that the Holiday Fantasy of Lights was cancelled indefinitely due to lack of volunteers.  
I had a feeling it may happen.  Rumours where beginning to swirl and I was hoping they would not come to be. It was for nothing and instead we were left with our families having no place to remember their children this Christmas  With panic in my belly I wrote the only person I knew who would have the contacts I needed to help me.  C was the woman whom helped me get Ava’s tree.  We talk a couple times a year by email and being that she works for the city I thought she may know who I can speak to about how we could decorate a tree or get a spot in a public space for this Christmas.  
Her response was quick and to the point, “Leave this with me and I will get back to you as soon as I can.”
And no word further for nearly a week.  A week of fielding phone calls and hand wringing when an email came in that made my heart skip a full beat and lose all feeling in my legs as I fell to my knees in gratitude.
C said she had a simple, long lasting solution for us.  She had recently gone down to Ava’s beautiful Eastern Redbud Tree and with the help of her team had harvested saplings.   Wee Ava’s Trees babies if you will.  These wee saplings were then taken back to the greenhouse that the city runs.  Her team went to work, searching out a place at Pinafore Park to plant them all.  And together created a grove. 
A Grove of Ava’s Trees, that they have affectionately named Ava’s Grove.  A grove of trees dedicated to Elgin Loss Peer Support that is to be planted steps from our Christmas Tree location.  This Grove will year round be a gathering place, a picnic spot, a place to sit and be with all of our babies.  It will never close and it will forever be there for our families.  
Last Friday I went to greenhouse to see the trees for myself.  C and I met in person for the first time ever and as if she has not given me enough, she turned to her team member and said, 
“This is Ava’s Mum, Melissa.”
Ava’s Mum.  Ava’s.  She said it, just instinctually.  That is how she knows me and I felt my heart swell.  No one had ever introduced me as Ava’s Mum before. 
On December 5th 2014 (date tentative and chosen for all the December 5th babies I know and love)  Elgin Loss with gather once more and for the first time in Ava’s Grove.  Our wee trees will not be planted but we will decorate a neighbouring tree and stand together to celebrate our babies this Christmas.  In the warmer weather, there will be a mass tree planting with hopefully 20 Eastern Redbud Ava babies to be planted.  The first of what I hope will be of many tribe times spent together.  

Sapling

The dark soil is where they will be planted. 

A bench has generously been put in

Looking from the grove outwards toward the park.  

The grove has large towering trees protecting it

Just up the path is our Christmas Tree

Looking from the grove up the hill
Of all the things I have done, I think Ava would like this one the most.  Together, with the generosity and love of others, we are creating a safe space for families to remember and be together.  As I stood in the grove on Friday with Matthew, I had tears in my eyes and all I could think was,
“Oh I hope she sees this, look what we can do!” 
  

Author: Melissa

You can learn more about me, and my family, on the About Us page.