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The Remembering Garden: finding community and renewal while sharing grief

The Remembering Garden will be a way for neighborhoods to honor death by celebrating renewal.

Photo of Ken Rosenfeld
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Who is your idea designed for and how does it reimagine the end-of-life experience?

The Remembering Garden is intended to combat the grief and isolation that frequently accompanies bereavement and to foster a culture that celebrates death as a communal experience. It is intended as a local endeavor, fashioned after community gardens found across the world, but encourages both a ritual of communally sharing grief and celebrating nature's ability to bring forth life.

  The vision for the Remembering Garden is one of building community in the face of loss and in creating beauty despite profound loss.  The concept is built off of community gardens that have become commonplace in cities across the globe and influenced by the National AIDS Memorial Grove in San Francisco and the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.  I imagine it as a garden as diverse as the people that are remembered in it, with patches of wildflowers interspersed with neatly-curated rose bushes.

  The Remembering Garden would be located as part of a public park or other open area, perhaps with associated art installations, picnic areas, or other features that would be a center for community activity.  Each Remembering Garden would be curated by a local volunteer community and develop "rules of the garden" grounded in a set of generic principles but tailored to local communities and cultures represented in the garden. Examples of the generic principles might include the following:

1.  Grief should be supported both for its personal nature and as an opportunity for connection to the larger community

2. Honoring and supporting grieving individuals strengthens the community

3. Death is an opportunity for beauty and renewal

4. The Remembering Garden is community-owned and  transcends the individual

5.  Maintaining the Remembering Garden is the responsibility of the entire community

  Plantings in the Remembering Garden would be organized through a website where grieving community members could notify others when a death occurred.  Remembering Ceremonies would typically occur at a common day/time each week, so that community members could become habituated to attending them.  However, individuals could designate an alternate day/time if he/she preferred to invite specific community members (invitations might also be distributed via the website).

  I imagine the Garden being divided into small planting plots.  Each plot might include a post that could house a Remembrance Card that could be signed by attendees at the Remembering Ceremony and/or other community members who visited the garden.

 




What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

Solicit interest from local community members, our local "Friends of the Park" groups for various parks in the city, and contact City Council members to solicit interest.

What skills, input or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Assistance in designing the website and further developing the approach to the Garden's design and implementation processes.

Tell us about your work experience:

Palliative care physician with experience in program development/implementation, quality of care evaluation, and health services research.

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual

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Photo of Lee-Jung Kim
Team

Ken Rosenfeld I wonder if we can somehow design the garden to tackle all the senses. Smell of honeysuckles in the summer time.Smell of lilacs in the spring time...And allow children to play in the garden without the fenses and teach them how life begins and ends...through the cycles of life...

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Photo of Ken Rosenfeld
Team

I really like this embellishment, Lee-Jung.  I wonder , what might local communities themselves want in a place of reverence and renewal?  I can imagine that each garden, and the community it serves, might be unique in its own way!

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Photo of Shane Zhao
Team

Love this idea Ken! I'm really glad to hear you mention the AIDS Memorial Grove in the Golden Gate Park. It's a beautifully planted and intimate park/ garden space. What I love about it is that it's a place of remembrance and celebration at the same time — families often bring their kids to picnic at the Memorial Grove on weekend.

The idea of having a community space that can bring people together physically to reflect and celebrate is powerful. Perhaps these gardens can even take place in an urban setting to revitalize communities like the Hooker Alley Park in the Tenderloins. How might a space for healing and grieving cultivate new connections in the community?

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Photo of Ken Rosenfeld
Team

Yes, that's exactly what I had in mind Shane.  In fact, I'd envisioned commissioning Candy Chang to place a "Before I Die" wall in the inaugural Remembering Garden, if it ever comes to fruition (a pie-in-the-sky idea, I know . . .).

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Photo of OpenIDEO
Team

That would be amazing! A remembrance wall that's alive with thoughts from the community rather than a memorial wall that's set in stone. Love it:)

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Photo of Ken Rosenfeld
Team

Hey, do any of you wizards at IDEO know Candy?

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Photo of Morgan Meinel
Team

Ken, I absolutely love this idea! I echo Shane's sentiments - the idea of having a community space that can bring people together physically to reflect and celebrate is incredibly powerful. I just love any idea that utilizes nature, such as a memorial garden, as a sanctuary and as a symbol of rebirth and continuation of life. There's something very special about it. 

At Mount Sinai Hospital, we have two memorial and remembrance services each year for the families of our patients who have died. The sense of support, love, and community that arises from these gatherings is so tremendous and assists in the grieving process in such a beneficial way. I imagine having a community memorial garden would provide a similar benefit. 

I wish I knew Candy Chang!  I had the good fortune of hearing her speak at a recent Palliative Care Conference. Could you reach out to her via email with your idea? 

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Photo of Ken Rosenfeld
Team

Thanks for your thoughts, Morgan.  I saw Candy at AAHPM as well -- my jaw was on the floor during her keynote.  I'll keep you posted as my discussions with the City of Berkeley move forward re. a Remembering Garden I'm inspired to plan in our neighborhood.  In the meantime, send my regards to Diane, Sean, Nathan, and the crew at Mt Sinai!

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Photo of Mansi Parikh
Team

Ken this idea reminded me of an effort by a father in the Bay Area who is raising money for cancer research in his son's memory http://www.mercurynews.com/milpitas/ci_29621557/san-jose-bulb-guy-and-wife-create-rainbow He has built a garden earning him the moniker "Bulb guy" because he has grown a garden of tulips and Daffodils which he opens to the public every year. He also writes names of his donors on paper tulips which he pastes on his garage door.

I wonder if you could get some help from him. 

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Photo of Ken Rosenfeld
Team

Thanks for the link, Mansi.  I'll definitely reach out to him -- it sounds like this idea is right up his alley!

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Photo of Mansi Parikh
Team

I hope it works out for you. The moment I read your idea that article popped into my mind!

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Photo of Marea Saldarriaga
Team

I love your ideation! specially because it is joyfull and celebretative! Well done!

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Photo of Ken Rosenfeld
Team

Thanks, Marea!  Hoping to transform our death-denying culture, one rose bush at a time!