Garden or Memorial?

I was in Oklahoma City recently for a conference and we had free time one afternoon. Among the options for free time were the Myriad Botanical Gardens or the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum. Honestly, I was inclined toward the botanical gardens. I didn’t really want to dwell on the bombing of the federal center 24 years ago (today – April 19 – is the anniversary). However, I was hosting an international friend at the conference and she wanted to go to the memorial, so I went along with her.

Though I was a reluctant visitor, I was impressed with the way the park-like block was laid out to provide space to think and process, and to honor the victims. The entrance archway said, “… May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.”

Ok city memorial

The outdoor part of the memorial included archways, a reflecting pool, a grassy field with chairs representing each victim (small chairs for the children), and trees – evergreen, deciduous and flowering trees that were in bloom when I visited. The site certainly did offer a place for peace and serenity to contemplate the tragedy.

okc chairs

The indoor, museum part of the memorial incorporated creative storytelling elements to show the scale and human tragedy of the bombing. I appreciated the way the exhibits revealed more aspects of the story and honored the victims. It is truly a well-curated memorial.

However, after going through the inside and understanding more of the facts and trauma of that day, I was refreshed by returning to the outdoor space. I appreciated the breathing space it offered, in contrast to the difficult story inside. I stood under the “survivor tree,” an old American elm which was next to the federal building and was damaged in the blast but survived. I searched the branches for fresh leaves unfurling and awakening in the warmth of spring.


As I walked away from the memorial, I appreciated the intention of the space.

We need reflective spaces – physical places that offer respite from the challenges of life. These reflective spaces can be memorials, gardens, forests, front porches, kitchen tables, and more.

We also need reflective spaces in our souls – where we can go deep to ask the essential and eternal questions of life to our Creator.

It is Holy Week. The time when Christians remember and reflect on the love, sacrifice, death and life of Jesus.

And it’s been a rough week in my town, Denver. All the schools were closed on Wednesday due to a threat of gun violence. It’s been a week of coming face-to-face with the brokenness in the world.

Today is Good Friday, the most broken day, when we remember Jesus’ death on the cross.

Today is a good day to seek a reflective place – whether it’s in my own garden, or the open space of the park near my home, or in breaking bread around the dinner table with my husband or attending Good Friday service at church.

A day to seek comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity. And to keep seeking … because there is hope beyond the brokenness.

One thought on “Garden or Memorial?

  1. I had to stop for this one, even if it not about gardening. I happened to be in Oklahoma City at the end of 2012, and left just before the big 2013 New Year’s celebration at the (then) new Devon Tower right across the street from the Myriad Arboretum. That was my first trip away from the West Coast, and the longest time I had ever been away from California. (I had only got to Oregon and Washington for no more than two weeks at a time before that.) For me, the entire region was one of those special places that I needed to go to at the time. I did not intend it to be that way. I just worked out. Well, I could write an entire article about it. I intend to return, although it will never be the same as it was then.


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