The community is invited to visit Madison’s Strawberry Patch Park for Sip and See our Angel Tree on Dec. 7 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. to see the progress on the Children’s Memorial Garden and remember the young lives that were lost too soon.
Too Soon is a group of mothers who have lost their children that meets once a month to support one another. The city of Madison gave the group a part of Strawberry Patch Park to create a place of remembrance for their children after one woman in the group shared how great her personal garden had been for her. Melody Lanke joined the group after losing her son, Chase, in 2018 just as talk of the garden was beginning. She joined the garden committee, and they began to build the garden from the ground up.
“Two years ago, we started a tree out there, and we ordered ornaments with our child’s name on them,” Lanke said. “So we went and put them up and have done that for the last two years. We had so many ornaments on it last year, and we want to give everyone the opportunity to come out and see what we’ve done with the garden.”
While everyone is invited to the event, those who have lost a child are welcome to bring an ornament for their child to place on the tree as well to celebrate and remember the time they did have with them. There will also be baked goods, hot chocolate, and hot cider for those who come to enjoy. A donation jar will be available for those who feel moved to give towards the completion of the garden, and forms will be present to purchase a brick with their child’s name inscribed for the garden.
“Our main goal is to come together to hang the ornaments on the tree and just celebrate our children’s lives and celebrate what the garden means to us and show the community how important it is to us,” Lanke said.
Lanke said the garden is special to her because it is a place she can go to reflect on her son where his name is shown on a brick, even though he was laid to rest in a different state. In addition to the bricks, there are more goals for what the Children’s Memorial Garden will include. The group’s main focus right now is to fundraise enough to finish the fountain in the garden within the next six to eight months. They also are working on landscaping, adding more bricks that have been purchased, and including statues around the garden as well.
“We also want to do a butterfly garden out there, and we just want it to be so peaceful and a little bit of heaven for us,” Lanke said.
This will give a special place for the group to come together or on their own. Lanke said the group is important because they understand what each other have gone through and have walked in each other’s footsteps. The goal, Lanke said, is not to talk about what happened to their children but rather how they are living their lives now without them. This support is essential for hard times such as the holiday season.
“Last year, I wasn’t able to put my ornament on the tree for my child and, one day, I was compelled to stop,” Lanke said. “I went up to it and as soon as I got there there was only one that really stood out of the 88 ornaments. It was Chase’s. That just meant the world to me.”
Someone in the group had placed an ornament for Lanke in honor of her son, even when she couldn’t do so herself. She said this means everything to her to have this group and this place to come and honor her child. Christine Kelley, one of the starters of the group, is the one who approached Lanke when her son passed about joining the group.
“Christine came and approached me and said you can come,” Lanke said. “My child died differently than hers and I said, ‘But it’s not the same.’ and she said, ‘It is because your hole is just as big as mine.’ It isn’t about what happened to them but how we are making it through the days without them. I think that is so key.”