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 Essay Review    



They That Sow In Tears
By Catherine Chappell Lewis & Charles Nolan Sandifer  
The Master Design, 2002
Paperback, $18.00 (102 pages)
(102 pages)
ISBN: 1-930-28511-6

It was at a Christian Writer’s Conference in Memphis, Tennessee that I met and talked with Catherine Chappell Lewis about her co-authored book, They That Sow in Tears.   

From the beginning, I knew it was a unique project—one I had heard nothing about in the past—a book about coping with grief through gardening.   The two authors had both lost children to serious illnesses.  Both of them—the Sandifers and the Lewises—had been friends for about 30 years, and their families naturally shared their grief with each other. 

Out of this grief was born a response to it.  Each of them began to notice that by planting a memory garden, they found consolation in their gardening.  They wanted to share their love of gardening with others as well.  They felt a need to tell others how planting a beautiful tribute to loved ones could give pleasure and comfort by getting others outdoors and involved in the ‘healing activity of gardening.’  They chose as the title of their project, a portion of the line from Psalm 126:5, ASV: “They that sow in tears shall reap in joy.”  

I know the most important question that one would ask, (and which I thought of also), was: How can a garden help?  The answer to that is given head-on, in the first chapter on page 3: 

“When you can’t find the words, or no one seems willing to listen, a garden can help you express your feelings.”

How and when, I next considered asking.  Then I read these excerpts from page 4:

 “The funeral is over…the out-of-town relatives have gone home, and friends have returned to their schedules.  A strange, stunned quiet settles over you.

Now, what do you do?  

What is there to do that would seem normal and sane but not mentally taxing?

Gardening provides some wonderfully mechanical, mindless tasks with varying levels of physical exertion.  It allows you to get caught up in the soothing rhythm of digging, raking, trimming shrubs, pulling weeds or hosing down the lawn...It gives your mind a chance to run along whatever avenue it needs to try to sort out the confusing things that have happened.”

Many schemes and ideas for memorial gardens are explored.  Here is the ‘Garden for Rachel’ which holds her remains in an urn, buried beneath a special place in the garden.



There are ideas for statuary, flowers for butterflies, container gardens, and tips for artistic displays, balance, symmetry and the like—all important elements of gardening presented in simple, easy-to-understand and not demanding drawings and charts.  And as it says in the afterward of this book, “Although a garden cannot take the place of a loved one, we do believe that creating something beautiful in the natural world can provide great comfort while you wait for time to dull the pain of your loss. 


Robert L. Hall
Southern Scribe Reviews


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