Remembrance Garden’s 10th anniversary

26th July 2019

Around 100 guests joined us at the weekend to mark the 10th anniversary of our Remembrance Garden at our Stroud Headquarters

Remembrance Garden’s 10th anniversary

To mark the occasion four of the sculptures from our award-winning Chelsea Flower Show garden of three years ago have now found a permanent home in the garden.

Dr Tom Nutt, our chief executive, said: “It was a brilliant and moving occasion, and an expression of the charity at its best, showcasing our garden as a warm, safe, sensitive and supportive space for those remembering their loved ones."

“There were many old friends to our charity, and others who are newer and were visiting the charity for the first time. Some of these took the opportunity to plant their memorial peg in the garden. We also had Jacob, Louise and Lauren attend, and they are now proudly installed in the garden as our Chelsea sculptures. Dave Rowlands, and his wife Julia, attended as family representatives of Gareth, our fourth sculpture.” 

Another guest was our supporter Liz Dee and her family, husband Justin and sons Oliver and William. Here we reproduce her moving blog about her visit and the day. . .

Life Chez Dee Episode #20: Always there

I’m sitting down this evening reflecting on the day …. and it’s been quite emotional.

Today we were invited to the Remembrance Garden at Meningitis Now, 10th Anniversary Event. I have never actually visited the headquarters of Meningitis Now before. I’d often wanted to visit, to meet the people who I have had so much contact with since Edward died, and so knowing that this was going to be a lovely, and special event, we decided to go. 

We arrived in Stroud, but struggled to find a way in to the offices. We could see the signage from afar, behind B&Q in fact. After a couple of loops round, we finally arrived, having decided to take a punt to try the road marked for B&Q deliveries!

We were met in reception by Tom Nutt, CEO of Meningitis Now, who I’d wanted to meet for quite some time. Tom welcomed us, gave us a tour, introduced us to many people, made us a brew, which of course required the addition of far more milk for me! We chatted about various things, the charity, the new charity, staff, who’s who, speeches etc. Tom told me how he’d used my blogs on a couple of occasions to read out, and indeed very recently read one to the trustees. I felt a whole range of emotions, but was nonetheless pleased and proud.

We headed to the reception in the garden, which has been planted beautifully, and is a quiet haven where people can sit peacefully and reflect. A marquee decorated with pretty bunting awaited us. Inside was a huge table filled with many lovely pies, pastries, nibbles, cakes, strawberries and cream. It was a lovely, relaxed, informal afternoon, with the opportunity to chat to many, and a lovely speech given by Tom. I chatted to Cheryl at length; Cheryl is Family Support Manager, I think her title is. We spoke at length about my blogs, how much she liked to read them, how genuine, honest and very real they were, how she’d like to share my blogs with others.

We talked about writing, how it can help, but also of the negative impact it can have too; the offloading being a good thing, helping to order thoughts, offloading the many thoughts which go round and round in my head like in a washing machine. We talked of how much I was enjoying writing and how this discovery was helping me. We also talked about how writing is often suggested to those who are dealing with trauma, or loss, or grief, and we talked about writing for self as opposed to writing publicly; and the negatives of how public writing can leave the writer open to criticism, which could be dangerous for the very vulnerable.

Edward Dee peg Remembrance Garden

Meningitis Now had given us a beautiful oak peg, carved with Edward’s name. Oliver wanted to plant this in the garden and so he took charge of the trowel. With a little help from Justin the peg was in place, sitting amongst the beautiful flowers all in bloom, a tree above, but not quite overhanging the flower bed, and right next to where we were in the marquee. I smiled that I had to step over the guy rope to get to where we were planting the peg, and how Edward would have quite liked being next to the guy rope. 

Overcome with emotion, I needed to take a moment. That wave of sadness … the reality of why we were there … the stillness of the garden … the beautiful place … watching Oliver digging the place where this peg would go … was all just too much. Even now, I’m struggling to write this, the lump in my throat is so large I’m unable to speak, and unable to see the words through the tears.

I took lots of photographs today. I don’t know if people generally do this. I like to take photographs. I like to document the moment … special moments … all these are significant moments for me … for Edward. Would I record all the significant moments were Edward still here? Yes I would. Nothing seems more natural than wanting photographs to remember all the significant moments for Edward still.

We were left to have some time, but weren’t forgotten. It wasn’t long before we were chatting again, and meeting lots of other staff … coming over to introduce themselves, many seeming to know me, even though I may not have known them. Everyone was very friendly; we felt very much at ease. We even found ourselves chatting about cake, and chatting about tea … which led Cheryl to tell others about my blogs again. I’ve even come home with some West Country Teabags to try out … Miles Finest Teas of Porlock … gosh I feel another blog coming on.

We will come and visit again. I will try to visit if I am ever travelling nearby. I will want to visit the garden and give my nod to Edward, and I do hope that many others, staff who know of Edward, will read his name and give him a nod too. I’d like to come again to visit those who work for the charity too, and those who we didn’t get to meet today; maybe if we manage a weekday, we will manage to meet more of the staff.

We were given a second peg. A beautifully wrapped and tagged oak peg for us to keep … to bring home. I looked at the triangular packet all beautifully wrapped and thought how much it looked like a piece of cheese. Maybe it represented a piece of stinky camembert … Edward would have loved that. I haven’t decided yet where to place this peg, so it will come home with us until we know; until we have a moment of realisation; a knowing of where it should go.

I think the symbolic planting of the peg, was a beautiful idea, a beautiful thought, yet a stark reminder that Edward has gone. It doesn’t get easier, it’s there always. The grief, sadness, emptiness; that pain which follows us around is always there, even through the laughter and smiles, it’s always there. And the memories we have, and those in the making, Edward is with us … always there. 

Read more about Edward’s story and Liz’s other blogs on her website.

Read more about our Remembrance Garden.

Visit our online virtual garden and support our work.

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