One of my first “brakes for beauty” (even though I didn’t know that is what I would be calling it at the time) happened in 2015 and was at Donaldson Farms in Hackettstown, New Jersey. It is a farm that grows sunflowers – fields and fields of sunflowers. The reason I had “braked” that week was because of my grandmother. She has passed away at 93 years old. To give you an idea of who she was …
Now, knowing my grandmother – she would tell me to take five minutes to cry then to get up, wash my face, and move on. She had a tough love mentality, but I think independence is one of the most selfless gifts a person could give to their children (or grandchildren). It reminds me of a quote by Kahlil Gibran, “You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth”. My grandmother could have told me to stay with her instead of move to Florida – I would have stayed. She lived alone and had a nurse who visited her on a daily basis. Deep down, I knew she was lonely, but she refused to move out and refused to let anyone move in. “How are you going to build a life if you’re stuck in Jersey taking care of an old lady ?! You’re maintaining a past, not creating a future!” Her words, not mine.
Knowing who she was, that she lived a full life (I may have to cover HER adventures in a separate blog post), and that she hated being stuck in the body of a 90 year old – helped me during the grieving process. So I decided in her honor, I wanted to combine the week of her burial with visiting a beautiful place – not sitting at home, crying. She hated that. Instead my mom and I:
Years later when I think back to that week, I do not think of sad ceremonies (wake, funeral, etc.). I think of sunflower fields. Realizing that this is what I associate to her death, beautiful moments with my mother in local sunflower fields – I realized I could apply this to every day life. I can choose to fill up my memories with beauty (even if there are other emotions present during that time). Was I sad the day I visited the sunflower fields? Yes. Did I have the urge to cancel and sit in bed and cry? Without a doubt. Did I know that this experience would have such a profound impact on me years later? No.
When you go through a traumatic experience you will have a lot of emotions to process. While processing them, you are in a haze. However, one day you come out of the haze and look back on that event. The first few times, you probably won’t think about the beautiful things you forced yourself to see that week (I know I didn’t). But one day, something will click. And instead of thinking about the haze, you will think about … sunflowers. Remember, if you don’t make that beautiful memory (and trust me I know it can be hard to get yourself to even move) you won’t have one to look back on. Are there any farms/fields in your area where you can spend the day? Sometimes they even offer seasonal events, just like Donaldson’s!
And guess what? I still haven’t even told you about the best part of the day! It was when we were leaving the fields and my mom said to me, “You might not know this, but it’s so funny you found this place. It reminds me of the perfume mist your grandmother used. It was called Sunflowers.”