Photo: Staff, volunteers and parents in the newly opened Garden of Remembrance
Palliative Care Australia reports that last Thursday, 22 May 2019, with staff, volunteers and bereaved families in attendance, Bear Cottage in New South Wales, unveiled its new Garden of Remembrance – a place of love and serenity to remember those children who have lived and died at the children’s hospice.
The focal point of the garden is a custom made Australian bronze statue of two children – a young boy folding a teddy bear and an older girl with a butterfly gently resting in her hand. The statue was commissioned from a local artist and paid for from generous donors, two of whom were Bear Cottage families.
The right time
Since its opening in March 2001, Bear Cottage has never had plaques in remembrance of children who have died. Bear Cottage Nurse Unit Manager, Narelle Martin, explains.
“We do everything we can to be as far from a ‘hospital’ as possible, whilst still being set up to provide excellence in paediatric palliative care 24 hours a day and our affiliation to The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network mans we have access to some of the best medical resources in the world.
“After 18 years we felt it was the right time to have something to symbolise and remember the children who have been to Bear Cottage over the years. A place that families, staff, volunteers and other children can come, sit, reflect and remember.
“When a child who has spent time at Bear Cottage dies it is incredibly hard time for the bereaved families. A huge void is also left in the hearts of the staff, our other patients and their families. “
Narelle says that some bereaved families find great solace in coming back to Bear Cottage almost immediately and take comfort in regular visits back to see staff and other “Bear Cottage regulars” and by being involved with their dedicated Bereavement program.
In this heartfelt speech during the opening ceremony, a bereaved parent thanked donors, Bear Cottage staff and volunteers for the garden and paid tribute to the indomitable spirit of the children who pass through its doors:
It is wonderful to be here today for the opening of the “Garden of Remembrance” and unveiling of the bronze statues. I was lucky enough to be present for the pouring of the bronze a couple of months ago. I remember it had been raining for days and there had been a lift in the weather for that afternoon. I like to think it was holding off just for us. The sunset was beautiful . . .but it wasn’t until night filled the sky . . . that we could truly see the glow and vibrance of the bronze coming to life. It was remarkable . . . watching this boiling metal being (cautiously) poured into the casts, soon to be our statues. It reminded me of our Bear Cottage children; Precious, pure and unique.
And in the darkness they shine brightly.
And here we are with this extraordinary gift for our Bear Cottage families. Honestly, initially, I wondered if these statues truly represented the children that are in . . . or have passed through these doors . . . and then I had another thought. They do . . . they symbolise the spirit within all our children. Our babies, toddlers, tweens and young adults. The able bodied and the disabled. Many of our children are/and were unable to stand tall . . . but their spirits do.
This is a beautiful acknowledgment of their spirit and uniqueness. Nature has the quality (more like a gift), of being able to ground, inspire, delight and heal when we connect with it. I hope that “the garden of remembrance” will be a special place for families in-house to have quiet time, get some fresh air and take in the beauty that surrounds us . . . and for bereaved families . . . to feel their angels are acknowledged. As a parent who has lived grief and loss, Bear Cottage has become a place that holds our memories . . . some positive . . . some heartbreaking. I know this area will be cherished and used . . . and as a parent I thank you for not forgetting . . .
Memories are like a bookmark to connect to our children
Another thank you for those who have donated, contributed and looked after our children. With the opening of the Garden of Remembrance you have once again reminded us that we are family and will always be remembered.