The Gift

The Tin Woman by Anne Copeland (She says, “I always had a heart.”)

This may end up being a series post because it involves the story of a life. It is my hope that this may serve to help anyone who is having difficulty coping with life. It is a true story. It is my story. And I am feel blessed to be able to share it.

I was inspired to write my story when I read a beautiful and touching post by a person whose blog I follow, http://www.3Bones.wordpress.com. Almost everyone in this life goes through some sort of tragedy or issues that can change a life forever. Challenges, no matter what the nature of them can be, are a blessing. The reason they are a blessing is that without them, we might never learn compassion for others, or how to help them when they need it most. We might never experience the beauty of life because life is full of valleys and mountains, sunshine and shadows and darkness. And we might never develop a sort of strength and true understanding of a journey. We might never develop faith in some form, from a belief in a God and a loyalty to that belief, or a sort of spirituality that we recognize in the things, people and places that surround us every day.

And lives – all lives – are sacred in this world. They are here by design – all of them. All forms, all shapes, all colors and names we have made to categorize each of them. They are needed to help the earth and the universe to survive. Even the smallest grain of sand is sacred. It has a special function though it may seem insignificant. Nothing is insignificant in this world.

I want to let you know that this story contains elements of life and death. It contains elements of goodness and love and kindness. And it also contains elements of evil and hatred and the horrible acts that human beings are capable of enacting upon selves and others. This is an opportunity for anyone reading it to perhaps change your thinking about human life on this plane.

The Tin Lady is not only an art doll that I created from found objects. If you look at her carefully, you will see that she is imperfect. Perhaps we can all be both imperfect and sacred a the same time. Most of my art falls into the Wabi Sabi category I have written about in the past; it is an appreciation of the imperfect, the impermanent, and the miracles that can be appreciated in the simplest of things. It serves to remind us that we are all here but a short time in the overall scheme of things, and that life is not a destination, but a journey every day that we live.

So with this brief introduction, the next part of the story will be told in a second post. I do not have a schedule for this. I will write more as I am able to continue. Thank you one and all very kindly for being here.

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An Angel Among Us

pexels-newborn baby 2

Photo Courtesy Pexels

When I first moved to Calimesa in Southern California, I noted that the Garden of Angels in Desert Lawn Cemetery was located in my city.  I had read about the cemetery in 1996 when a wonderful lady, Debi Faris, living in Yucaipa (next to Calimesa) heard a newscast about a newborn baby found dead in a duffle bag that had been tossed out on the San Pedro freeway.

Garden of Angels Cemetery at Desert Lawn in Calimesa

Faris explained how that newscast impacted her life. “He was placed, I assume by his mother, in a pink duffle bag with the word ‘lifesaver’ written on the outside of it. This little child would change the course of my life,” she said.

“When I heard the news report about that newborn baby in the duffel bag … it touched me so deeply that I could not turn and walk away. He was a human being, so innocent and vulnerable. It tore at my heart that his mother could not see the ‘gift’ she had been given.”

Thus Faris began her life-long quest to make sure there would be a place to bury these abandoned or murdered children and she made education of teens and young people her priorities.

Soon thereafter, she contacted Senator Jim Brulte to get the laws of child abandonment changed. The abandonment law passed after some time and in 2001 the Safe Surrender for Newborns law became part of her legacy.

“On August 26, 1996, we buried the first three children in the Garden of Angels. Two abandoned newborn baby boys and a little girl about the age of two, apparently murdered, who had been found floating in a river. I gave them their names, Matthew, Nathan and Dora. Their names all have the same meaning … a gift from God.” She said her dad made wooden crosses and sent them to her from Oregon.

The names were important she said because, “These children had a name now … they would not be just a Coroner’s number.”

There is even one adult buried in the Garden. Grandpa John’s stone cross sits on the edge of the garden amidst the forest of monuments dedicated to the tiny children.

In 2002, Faris had received a call from the Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office asking if she knew anyone or group who would take the body of an adult and give him a proper burial. “I said I didn’t and asked why,” she said.

The person on the other line proceeded to tell Faris they had a man who had died and as they were trying to find family to notify them of his death, they learned that as a baby, he had been found discarded in a trash can in July 1936.

The man, legally named John Doe Jr., had suffered brain damage, possibly from being thrown into the trash can and had apparently lived his life in institutions, she said.

“I told them I would take him,” she smiled. “Now he’s surrounded by all these children and he won’t ever be alone again.”

Forsale

Debi Faris in the Garden of Angels

I attended several of the funerals at the Garden of Angels since I lived in the general area then.  The first one I attended was for three babies, all in tiny caskets, and all wrapped in receiving blankets.  Two of the caskets were no bigger than large boxes that might contain boots.

Debi Faris would drive from Yucaipa, CA all the way to Los Angeles, where the bodies of babies would be kept, along with every other person who was unidentified and/or unclaimed, and all the bodies would be cremated as one might burn trash.  She would get the babies, clean their tiny bodies and wrap them in clean receiving blankets.  Then she would sit with the babies for a short time, rocking them in a sort of loving action that a mother would make.  And then she would bring them back to Calimesa, CA, to the Garden of Angels, and they would be put in their tiny caskets for the funerals.

The funerals I attended back around 2014 were beautiful ways to acknowledge a life that otherwise might have passed into the netherworld without their lives having been acknowledged.  All the babies are given a first and sometimes middle name.  They cannot get a last name because of legal issues, I imagine lest someone comes to claim any of them, which has never happened.  There is singing.  The song I heard was “I’ll Fly Away Home,” and it was truly touching.  I know I shed some tears.  When the little caskets are taken outside to the burial site, people stand over them and pray for them and white doves are released.  They circle higher and higher in the sky over the site, and eventually begin to fly back home.  At every holiday, the little graves are decorated with flowers and other gifts brought by different people who visit the cemetery.  The Garden of Angels is a special part of the cemetery all of its own right near the front of the mortuary.  There is a little pool nearby and birds and ducks come there frequently to visit the pond.  It is a beautiful ceremony, and though sad, I think the fact that the babies are honored instead of being thrown away in trash cans, dumped in rivers, left out in the desert, or otherwise thrown away as a life without any value other than perhaps a 20-minute sex act (if that).

I have always been so touched by what this one woman did, a woman who was not wealthy, and who sold her family car to have money to bury the first three babies, that I too decided to do something as well in their honor.  So I began collecting blue and white quilt blocks that various women have donated.  I will ultimately bind each block individually and put them together horizontally so that the quilt can continue to grow.  I had made a list of the babies and their names, and some people have chosen to embroider a child’s name on a block.  I think when someone is talking to the young people at the high schools, it is a good visual aid to help them understand the reality of the issue.

Prior to the passing of the Safe Surrender for Newborns law, it is estimated that there were some 500 babies abandoned and/or murdered outright.  Today as it stands, there are more than 100 babies in the cemetery. I have not been there lately so I am not sure of the exact number, but one baby is too many. For information on California’s Safely Surrendered Baby Law, go to babysafe.ca.gov.

Footnote:  Debi Faris, after working so hard on this issue, actually won the lottery and her payout out of $26,000,000,000 was $9,000,000,000.  She contributed some of it to the nonprofit organization that I believe now exists.

Five Roses and How They Grew (or Not)

rose-blossom-bloom-red-rose-87469Photo courtesy Pixels.

I have five rose bushes in pots in my yard. It is interesting to watch the way they grow (or dont). These were rescue rose bushes – I got them in one of those very cheap waytoolateforbarerootroses sales and they were literally bare root – no sawdust or other wrapping to protect them.  It looked as though the grower simply plowed up their fields, threw the survivors into a box and brought them to the storeI looked carefully through all the ones that were available and picked the ones that had some signs of growing or trying to grow.

Watching the five rose bushes grow is a good analogy for life and how people choose to live itOf the five rose bushesdespite great care and lovewatering and fertilizerone of them didnt even try to make it and died within daysIt just plain gave upfor it had plenty of greenand it could have chosen to growbut for whatever reasonsit didnt even give it a tryI took it back and the store let me pick out another oneso againI brought the new one home and gave it the same treatment.

This one didnt look THAT promising – it had two spindly little greenishwhite twisted branches coming outbut somehow I felt good about itI wasnt wrong either because it took in all the waterthe fertilizerand everything it could get and it put out the largest leaves and healthy redgreen leavesand lots of them tooIt was really pumping to grow with everything it hasThe leaves and stems quickly reached up as if to catch every drop of available sunThis rose bush is not only was going to make itit was going to outpace all the other ones as if in a race to be the biggest and strongest.

One of the rose bushes had green on the trunks and it looked healthybut it is as though it hasnt made up its mind whether to grow or notIt just sat there with its green trunk but it hadnt even tried to put out any branches or leavesIt almost felt as though it was waiting for someone else to do its work.

Still another of the rose bushes was greenand it sort of sat there for awhileand then finally decided to growIt took a longer timemalingering day by dayseeming a little hopeful as it held onto its green for a long timebut then it finally just gave up without any little fight to survive.

The fourth rose bush tried toobut it was a such a timid little thingIt too had the greenish white branchesand it it put out little sweet leavesbut kept them close to the trunk as if needing to protect them from everythingIt grew slowlyas if not quite sure of each step it took like a baby that tries to take its first steps but has to hold onto the wall for security, not knowing how to trust its own self to make it .

The fifth rose was taller than the rest in its trunkbut it just put out one spindly branch and it had leavesbut only a couple and it grew so slowly that I often forgot to look at it to see how it is doing because my eyes were drawn to the most robust of all of them and how truly hard that one was trying.

I always think about these roses when I think about the challenges I hear that people are having in their lives and the ways they handle themI think about the ways they chose or chose not to go on and live fully no matter what the circumstances.

Like that robust rose bush with its huge leaves reaching out to grab everything it could to live fullyit was a trash rose to start out with as all of these werebut it was determined to go forward and it will make it in life and to be a rose that would cause people to admire it for trying so hardEven if this rose didnt get regular watering and fertilizer and a lot of good sunI have this feeling that it would be the kind of rose that would grow between cracks in pavementIt really wants to live and nothing will stop it as long as there is even just a little trunk and roots leftWhat kind of rose bush would you be in this life?