I did not have the pleasure of knowing you, Mrs. Pearl Bonnell Owen. I came across your memorial while exploring the beauty of Maymont Park on a cold winter's day. It was my first time visiting Maymont, which for me, had been discovered by chance. From the second I stepped foot onto the grounds of 100 acres -- it was a transcendent experience as I took in all the beauty of my surroundings. This particular park is the exact way I imagine heaven to be if there is such a thing. And I believe there is such a thing. Great oak trees filled the park, rolling hills, majestic wildlife, calming water elements, winter kissed botanical gardens, an old-fashioned style horse and carriage, and even a Victorian style manor open for tour.
After a few hours of walking around the park, I decided to run up and down the hills to get to the center of it. I hurtled in high boots attempting to dodge geese and their multitude of left behind "presents". I continued to move through the park without any intent of stopping, but this little wooden bench caught my eye. I had to stop and take a seat. This is when I was introduced to you, Mrs. Pearl Bonnell Owen. I looked long and hard at your remembrance plaque. I stood in front of it and took it in. I could not help but feel as though I were in the presence of greatness. Like something bigger than you or I had purposely arranged our acquaintance. Wiping my face as the tears filled my eyes and made their way down my cheeks -- I allowed a peaceful moment to myself in honor of your memory.
I want you to know, Mrs. Pearl Bonnell Owen, like many others who have passed your bench, I was the product of an injured life when I walked into that park on that cold winter's day, but by the time I left I was made anew by my entire experience. Having been made aware of your life somehow managed to touch my very own. You see…I read every memorial I come across, as it is my way of celebrating each and every life once lived. Whether someone was personally known by me or not, does not stop them from being precious to those who once did -- that alone is reason enough for me to celebrate. Your memorial though, yours truly touched my heart and changed my life in such a profound way. It was in the simplicity of it all that I was able to see myself. I saw my own life and where I hoped it would one day end. My memory placed in the most beautiful park, surrounded by the most heavenly scenery, left on a quaint wooden bench, that somehow brings comfort to those who take time to notice. I wish there were a way to let you know that even in death -- even in the life of a stranger -- you are still managing to make a difference somehow.
I sat at your bench wishing the time would move a bit slower.
I gazed about in awe, while being completely moved by its perfectly chosen location.
I thought about the type of person you must have been. I contemplated your life. I wondered about your family and how they must be handling your absence.
I pictured a lifetime of you visiting Maymont on most weekends, sitting under the trees of your favorite park bench, always with a book in hand with the intent to read, but getting completely lost in the present moment.
I envisioned your family visiting on holidays and your husband bringing you flowers. As he sat at your bench he spoke to you in whispers, about how he wished he had spent more time with you there. Though now in your absence -- he truly knows exactly what it was you loved so much about it. That alone brings him comfort.
In all that time of pondering and imagining, I was reminded how you were alover off all things great and small.
There I was, so small -- in one of the greatest places my being has ever known.
In a split second I felt like I was one of those scenarios in life that you must have loved so much. The kind of scenario that lead your family to acknowledge you as "a lover of all things great and small".
It was as though what I was feeling and experiencing about the park, about your life, was the precise reason for even being in the presence of your memorial in the first place. As if it were meant solely for me to find. What a sentiment to your own life this must have been.
The reality of it is...to most, your memorial may not say very much at all. To me though -- it says everything worth being:
WIFE, MOTHER, GRANDMOTHER AND FRIEND
A LOVER OF ALL THINGS GREAT AND SMALL
As I departed your bench that day a single quote came to mind:
"A pearl is a beautiful thing that is produced by an injured life. It is the tear [that results] from the injury of the oyster. The treasure of our being in this world is also produced by an injured life. If we had not been wounded, if we had not been injured, then we will not produce the pearl." -Stephen Hoeller
If I had not been wounded, if I had not been injured, then I would have not been able to treasure you.
Your bench has become a single treasured pearl in the center of my life. Finding it was a moment of pure serendipity and I will think back upon it often and fondly, as my days continue.
I hope one day I have the pleasure of hearing more about the life you lived.
Thank you, for having been you, Mrs. Pearl Bonnell Owen.
Until we meet again!
A tumbleweed soul, with the heart of an oak. Growing roots in Richmond, Virginia.