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Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Life and Death in the Backyard

Last night our cat was killed on the busy road in front of our house. My wife and I broke the news to our two children around the kitchen table this morning. It was their first real experience with death.

A misty rain fell as we solemnly gathered around the freshly dug hole behind our house. We unwrapped Solstice from the old table cloth that now was functioning as his burial shroud. Isabel was quiet and tearful; Soren had lots of questions about how it happened and what a dead cat felt like. We each spoke about what we would miss about Solstice. Then we laid him in the ground and took turns shoveling dirt into the hole.

Twelve hours earlier, the mood was quite different. The prior evening, that same back yard had hosted 13 young kids, whooping and hollering. We had invited five other families over for a Saturday night potluck. Most of the adults had wisely stayed up on the deck, while mayhem and anarchy ruled down below. In our small yard, there was simultaneously a baseball game going, kids on the swings, stomp rockets being launched into the sky and a sword fight. Rumor has it there were a few kids in the giant lilac bush as well, but I never saw them. In the fading twilight, it was a tremendous demonstration of youthful life energy. (Aside: I am thinking about ways to transform kid activity into a renewable energy source that might be available for federal stimulus dollars. President Obama has not returned my calls on that one yet.)

In the past twelve hours, our back yard has seen life and death. Today I give thanks for the sacred ground that under-girds and sustains both. A back yard is a simple thing that I don’t often think about. But important things happen there.

Question: What important things happen in your back yard (or front yard, or porch or kitchen?)


  1. My son Ben and I plant a backyard vegetable garden each year. Living in the city makes it tough to really do one up right. We get some broccoli, beans, peas and the ever multiplying zuccini squash. But nothing really takes off. This year my daughter Emily has gotten in on it as well. It's more about watching how the seedlings break through the ground and grow. It's more about spending time together than creating a harvest.

  2. Hey Todd,

    Have you tried square foot gardening? It's a great way to make the best use of a little space, and I've noticed a far better yield, especially when I pinch off the extra suckers on the vining plants. It is amazing to watch something grow from seed -- such a miracle! God is present and working wonders in back yards!

  3. My backyard includes a wonderful perennial garden that I love working in. As the seasons change, it reminds me of the different seasons of our lives. I'm constantly finding new metaphors for life there - whether it's about the weeds, the new seedlings, or my little rock path. It's one of my favorite places to be.

    ps...so sorry to hear about your cat. I'll send healing prayers for your family.

  4. Doug, so sorry to hear about your family's loss. I hope and pray your children will be able to share stories and remember the "good times" while they grow from this experience together. Thanks for the reminder that all ground is holy ground.