The Memory Garden — a daughter’s loving tribute to her dad

There’s a remarkable young woman in our community who lost her dad while she was in middle school, then channeled her grief into a positive force for countless others who have lost loved ones.

Rachael Ristau and a well-wisher at the opening of the Fayetteville Memory Garden, 2011.

Rachael Ristau and a well-wisher at the opening of the Fayetteville Memory Garden, 2011.

Rachael Ristau’s father, Michael, died of liver cancer when Rachael was 12. Two years later, as a high school freshman, Rachael formed and led a grief support group for middle school students who had suffered the loss of a loved one.

Then she pursued the idea for something far more permanent and far-reaching — a memory garden.

With help from her classmates, volunteers in the community, local businesses and village officials, Rachael pulled it off. After two-plus years, tens of thousands of dollars in donations and a lot of sweat equity, the Fayetteville Memory Garden was unveiled in October 2011.

Fayetteville Memory Garden, 2013.

Fayetteville Memory Garden, 2013.

For the groundbreaking, Rachael — then a college freshman — told a local reporter she was ecstatic that the garden could “spread its contagious message in that whatever battle you are fighting, you are not alone.”

The Memory Garden is a beautiful, quiet place to reflect. Commemorative bricks, benches, flowers and trees fill the garden, which features a brick walkway in the shape of a ribbon.

SmileSupporters buy bricks and have them inscribed. Dozens have been added in the past two years, as the garden becomes more well-known through word-of-mouth and social media.

Visiting the Memory Garden to reflect upon lost loved ones can be an emotional experience, certainly. But spend some quiet time there, read the heartfelt sentiments on so many bricks, and the sadness is often tempered by the comfort of knowing “you are not alone,” as Rachael said.

heldinarmsA dear friend of mine recently said, “Go where the love is,” in reference to being around people who are kind, giving and positive forces in her life. Rachael’s garden is such a place.

Advertisements

About Jim McKeever

Writer, father, runner, advocate based in Central New York.
This entry was posted in cancer, role models and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Memory Garden — a daughter’s loving tribute to her dad

  1. Patti Fitzgibbons says:

    Such a remarkable young woman, thank you for sharing her story.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s