Tilling the Soil

Over the last several weeks I’ve spent a lot of time learning about gardening. I took some online classes about the subject, read some articles and books and racked my brain trying to remember what Teresa did each year when she prepped, planted and cared for her garden.

The garden was Teresa’s place to “unwind”. I put the word unwind in quotes because it’s a lot of work. I knew this just by watching her work in the garden every year where she hand tilled the soil, pulled weeds, trimmed, planted and, ultimately, created a space that not only produced a lot of food, impressed every one that walked by but also gave her a place to enjoy the simplicity of life, a place where she didn’t have to solve the problems of others or provide for others – she could just be herself and she could enjoy that for a few moments in time.

Teresa loved her garden and it epitomized the innumerable qualities that she had in life.

A few weeks ago I decided it was time to start working in Teresa’s garden. It was never a question for either myself or the kids as to whether we would keep her garden up, it was a matter of how we were going to keep her garden up. It did stress me out a bit as I have never planted anything in my life and I was now tasked with continuing on in a garden that Teresa not only created, but was so admired by those who saw it and saw the amount of time she spent making it into such a great space.

I bought a bunch of bags of soil not knowing if it was the right/best kind to use but I was encouraged that the word “Garden” was before the word “soil” on each bag and that the bag mentioned various nutrients for plants.

As my reading also indicated that the soil should be tilled I decided to buy an electric tiller. This may seem as though I was choosing the easy way out on this step and that’s because I was.

With the soil and tiller in hand, and an order placed for various plants, it was time to get to work.

And I did.


I sat by the garden for a long time before I started though. It didn’t feel right. It shouldn’t be the kids and I doing this. It should be Teresa. It should always be Teresa planting her garden. This is her space.

It’s been six months now since Teresa passed away and I continue to attempt to maintain the soil that has led to the happy and loving family that she was so important in forming and maintaining. I try to keep a balance between work, school and fun with the kids. I try to give them a safe and healthy place to explore the world and grow.

I try.

However, there is an ingredient that a Mother has that is irreplaceable. There is an ingredient that Teresa had that I can’t replicate. No substitute will work.

But I’ll try.

I remember someone telling me that no matter how hard they tried to make a sandwich that tasted as good as a sandwich that their mom made, they never could; something was missing.

I couldn’t agree more.

I think all mothers add a certain amount of love to all that they do that makes the food they make taste better, that makes the job they do seem better done and that makes life, in general, seem safe and beautiful.

This ingredient, this love from a Mother, gives a child what they need to grow; to flourish. A mother’s love gives the child, no matter how old he/she is, the ability to stretch their roots, to absorb the love that they need to grow stronger and the ability to find the place they will be most successful in life.

This was one of of many things that Teresa provided to the kids, to our family. A Mother’s love is irreplaceable and, again,  I harbor no illusions that I will be able to replicate that – I can’t. I will however give the kids, give our family, what I can to keep our roots strong and to provide a safe and open place for them to grow and flourish. I do this out of love for our family, out of love for the kids and out of love for Teresa.

I miss your love Teresa and I miss the love you gave the kids.

After sitting for awhile, absorbing the garden as it was, as a full result of Teresa’s work, I decided that it was time for us to get to work. I emptied the bags of garden soil throughout the garden and the kids took it from there. Burke wielded the tiller like a champ and tilled the garden while Fritz used the rake to smooth the newly tilled soil out.

With the soil ready we began planting the garden. I had read about the importance of arranging plants so that they get the optimal amount of sunlight and water thereby giving each plant the highest possible chance to flourish and produce. I tried to take those factors into consideration as we planted the tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, zucchini, etc, but it was difficult to do. I didn’t take the time to see when the sun started hitting the garden and when it stopped. I didn’t consider drainage. I should have and will try to do so going forward.

As a parent, teacher, day care worker, etc, it is difficult navigating the varied personalities and needs of each kid. As a mom, Teresa did this at home with our two sons who, while both sweet, kind and responsible, couldn’t be any different from each other in both their physical appearance and personalities. It can be difficult at times to remember that they have different needs and that both sets of needs are valid. It’s easy to forget that what motivates one might not motivate the other; how one enjoys spending their time isn’t the same at the other; where one comes from when navigating life isn’t the same launching point as the other. Teresa was good at seeing their differences and understanding what would help one and what would help the other. She saw what motivated them and used that to help them accomplish tasks and learn new life skills. The boy’s mom was great at finding ways to bridge the gap between their needs/wants so that they would find common ground, learn to appreciate each other and understand themselves better as well. Our boys will undoubtedly grow stronger due to the care and attention Teresa gave to their needs. They will undoubtedly grow to be more understanding of the differences in others because of Teresa’s ability to show them how, despite their differences, a common ground can always be found. Burke and Fritz will undoubtedly carry with them their mom’s desire to do her best and to attempt to help others be their best as well.

I wish that our kids didn’t have to know what it’s like to live without their mom but I’m grateful that they had the time that they did with Teresa. I can see so many of her amazing qualities in them and I can see how her love has helped create two strong and loving boys.

I wish the kids that Teresa worked with, the kids she tried to help put into the best position for them to grow and succeed just like she did with our boys, still had her here as part of the team that would fight for them and do whatever they could to help them find the space they needed to move forward into a better life.

I wish Teresa were still here.

Having tilled the soil and planted our plants I know that the really hard work is still ahead. It’s important that the plants are watered often enough and for long enough without over-watering them. It’s important to pull the weeds from the garden so that they don’t overtake the plants and leech the nutrients and sunlight that the plants will always need to flourish. It’s important to care for them as they grow and to understand what each plant might need.

It’s important.

The kids shouldn’t have to know what life is like without their mom. They shouldn’t have to know what it’s like to celebrate Mother’s Day without Teresa being here. Burke and Fritz should still have the pleasure and honor of laughing with, being loved by and being guided to a better self by their mom.

I wish.

As the boys and I continue to till the soil of our lives and continue planting new memories as a family we are discovering that, while Teresa isn’t here physically, her love – the nutrient that helped create such strong family roots for us – is here. Her love is with us and is continuing to help us grow stronger as individuals and, more importantly, as a family. Teresa’s love for the kids continues to give them the light and room that they need to flourish and find the space they need in life. Teresa’s love for the kids provides them with a trellis when they need help finding the purchase they need to continue their climb to adulthood. Teresa’s love for the kids is and will continue to be.

A mother’s love is irreplaceable and Teresa’s love for the kids is no different. As the kids and I move forward I know that I can’t replicate her love for the kids; I can’t replicate that nutrient that only a mother can give to a child – but I don’t have to. Teresa’s love will be with this family forever and it is my task not to replace or replicate it but to continue to compliment it as best I can and ensure that the ground our family is rooted in continues to remember the compassion, laughter, beauty and love that she put into the soil in order for us to grow stronger and flourish together.

We thank you.

We miss you.

We love you.

Happy Mother’s Day Teresa!



Categories: Uncategorized

1 reply

  1. That was very nice Nathan, thank you.

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