Garden provides place of remembrance

Published 10:53 pm Thursday, December 15, 2011

Officials from Carver Memorial Cemetery and Sentara Obici Hospital dedicated the Garden of Love at Carver on Thursday. The Garden of Love will be a place to inter the remains of miscarried and stillborn babies.

Grieving parents in Suffolk now have a place where their babies who never got a chance at life can be memorialized.

On Thursday, a group of employees and volunteers from Sentara Obici Hospital and Carver Memorial Cemetery gathered at the cemetery to dedicate the Garden of Love. The cemetery donated enough land for about 24 graves for the cremated remains of babies who were miscarried or stillborn.

“This day is a beginning,” said Hattie Boone, director of patient care for women’s health at the hospital. “God has opened up a door. We needed a place, and this place was given to us.”

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Boone and her committee began working with the cemetery several years ago to provide for the need. Up until now, she said, there was nowhere in Suffolk for babies who never drew a breath to be remembered.

In the 1990s, Sentara made a deal with Woodlawn Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Norfolk for the Circle of Love garden there. Even women who had miscarriages or stillbirths before the garden opened would simply come there to lay flowers, said Ann Prescott, bereavement coordinator for Sentara Healthcare.

But Norfolk is a long way to go for many parts of Suffolk.

“We saw that as a real hole we needed to fill,” said Paige Hill, manager of patient care at Obici.

So the hospital committee went searching for someplace in Suffolk that could provide a similar place of healing. They didn’t hesitate to approach Carver.

“It’s always been a philosophy of mine to find a need and then try to solve that need,” said Bishop Ted Thomas, who along with Richard Tavss owns Carver Memorial Cemetery. “We learned that Obici had this need. This is a good thing to do.”

The Obici officials did not have statistics on the number of miscarriages and stillbirths they treat, but the March of Dimes estimates that stillbirth occurs in about 1 in 160 pregnancies and that as many as 40 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage.

The special area at the cemetery includes a heart-shaped flower garden designed by Robin Williams of Nansemond Lawn and Garden and a plaque donated by the Sentara Obici Hospital’s volunteer auxiliary.

The cemetery will hold memorial services twice a year for family members of the babies buried there, Thomas said.

Prescott said the memorial garden will be an important part of the grieving process for families who are mourning the loss of their children.

“It lets them know that people acknowledge these miscarriages were children,” she said. “It validates the babies that were lost, even though nobody else validates they even lived.”

Obici officials said they were grateful to Thomas and the other cemetery staff for donating the land and their time and effort.

For more information on the garden, call the cemetery at 539-9902.