by Erin Darst Hein
I’m sitting on the patio as I write this - watching my 3 year old and 5 year old. They sit cross-legged in the mud, bending to study the tiny strawberry plants that, to their delight and awe, are re-emerging from last year. Caroline reaches out a mud coated finger to delicately poke the tiny leaves and laughs her giggle that always reminds me of champagne bubbles. In the background, oblivious to what has distracted his siblings, my mud-coated 18 month old continues to trundle determinedly back and forth across the vegetable garden, grunting with concentration and mumbling baby talk as he gathers dirt and mud by the handful to fill his bucket – inexplicably 10 feet away.
This is it. This is what it is all about. The smell of the fresh garden. The impossibly delicate plants starting their journey again. The breeze. The birds singing. That very busy chubby bumble bee in the bush by the window. Filthy children noticing and exploring Spring. The treasures of last year emerge in new ways and the surprises of the new year are just taking root.
I think we can learn so much, heal so much, in a garden. It wasn’t an accident that we built a garden as the centerpiece of Darst Funeral Home. We just built a place that we love and that we genuinely find peace in, and we invited you to share it with us. My dad does not book 2 services here at once. If you’re here, this is your campus. He often changes the paintings out for framed family portraits. He invites you to bring in cherished mementos. He wants the kids to feel comfortable enough to run and laugh and fill his fountains with rocks. The porch and swings are yours. The gazebo is yours. The outdoor kitchen and all of the garden seating is yours. Bring in food and music and laughter that belongs to your family.
Last year 747 families trusted us to take care of them and walk with them through the loss of their loved one. We cried with them, and laughed with them, and poured our love into their services. Now it’s springtime here at Darst Funeral Home. Our garden is bursting into life and we’re all feeling a rush of energy. This year we want to serve 1000 families and as we grow and change we never lose sight of the original question. How can we make this better? Gentler? More dignified? More personalized?
We’ve almost finished our open-air garden chapel and we are all looking forward to getting the floor to ceiling glass for when the weather is too hot or cold to use it open. We upgraded our on-site crematory with better equipment and more ways to serve our families who choose cremations. We’ve begun work on another building that will more than triple our current space and give us some much needed breathing room. We are expanding our staff and re-thinking our processes. Can we make parking smoother? Can we make catering easier? How can we make sure you feel heard and supported every step of the way?
It’s going to be a whirlwind year, but we are ready for whatever 2017 throws at us. But for now, for right this moment, it’s just me and the breeze and the laughter of my dirt-powdered-donut children. Just the incredible peace of sitting in the garden, being reminded that we can face winter in our lives and yet we will persist. That life and love always find a way.
Erin Hein is the daughter of John Darst of Darst Funeral Home. She lives in Kingwood with her husband Evan and their 3 children Jack (5), Caroline (3), and Ian (1).
Read More by Erin:
Part 1: Earliest Memories
Part 2: Holidays on a cemetery
Part 3: This Little Light of Mine
Part 4: Genealogy
Part 5: The Man Behind The Magic
Part 6: No Cancer But a Dose of Perpective
Part 7: A Year Full of Yes
Part 8: Last Moments and First Steps
Part 9: Facing Fathers Day Without Your Father
Part 10: When Children Grieve
Part 11: From Velvet to Violets: Shedding New Light on Saying Goodbye
Part 12: If it Won't Open, It's Not Your Door
Part 13: Love, After All
Part 14: New Beginnings
Part 15: Not Goodbye, Just Goodnight
Part 16: Holding Space for Dying
Part 17: Grieving and Pets: A Family Affair