Ashley’s Garden

Ashley’s Garden

From Chicken Soup for the Grieving Soul

Ashley’s Garden

“Mommy, would you be sad if I died?” Disturbing words quickly tumbled from the mouth of four-year-old Ashley, taking her mother, Kathleen Treanor, by surprise.

“Of course, I would, Ashley. I’d miss you terribly.”

“But don’t be sad, Mommy. I’d be an angel watching over you.”

With a wink and a promise to stay close by her side, childish giggles soon filled the air. Yes, everything was back on key, with no more talk of four-year-olds going to heaven before their time.

A few days later, Kathleen brought Ashley to Grandma LaRue’s house. Grandma was a wonderful sitter, whose home overflowed with love, comfort and joy. Without a doubt, crafts and homemade cookies would soon be on their way.

After tenderly kissing Ashley good-bye, Kathleen jumped in her car and hurried off to work. She’d hardly arrived and settled comfortably in her chair, with a steaming cup of freshly brewed coffee, when she heard it. A huge blast rocked Oklahoma City, and just as quickly destroyed her world.

Confused and unsure of what happened, a coworker flipped on the television. Everyone in the office stood in reverent shock as the news began to unfold. There’d been an enormous explosion at the Murrah Federal Building. Kathleen could hardly believe her eyes. Not in my hometown, she thought. Not here! Soon, young mothers were running back and forth in a frantic search for their children. Kathleen was horrified to discover there’d been a daycare in the building. My God, the children, she thought, as she began to pray for the desperate families.

Within moments, her sister called with unimaginable news, unraveling the last shred of Kathleen’s protective shroud of peace. Luther and LaRue Treanor had taken Ashley to their social security appointment, which was inside the Murrah building. Suddenly, the room began to spin. Surreal humming filled Kathleen’s ears. Ashley was in that devastated structure—the one she was watching on the news!

It took days to discover their complete loss. But slowly, the details came forth. Her mother-in-law and father-in-law, along with Ashley, were found among the dead. Kathleen immediately slipped into a deep, dark depression, not able to comprehend how evil minds could change the destiny of so many innocent souls.

But months later, Kathleen recalled a prayer she’d uttered just days before the bombing, pleading with God for a message of hope to share with a hurting world. Then her mind raced to Ashley’s words just before the explosion, “Don’t be sad if I die. I’ll be an angel watching over you.” Suddenly, Kathleen realized she was being prepared for a mission far beyond her understanding.

In gratitude for the peace only God offers, she planted a memorial for her daughter. Today, Ashley’s Garden is adorned with a graceful weeping willow, a fountain and an abundance of lively, brilliant flowers. For all who see it, the message is clear. Life goes on. Joy follows sorrow. Light rises from darkness.

Through five years of journals and endless prayers, Kathleen’s dream to see her daughter’s legacy shared within the pages of the book Ashley’s Garden have finally come to pass, and her prayer for a healing ministry has reached far beyond her dreams.

When Kathleen awoke on the morning of September 11, 2001, along with the rest of the world, she froze in disbelief. America had, once again, been struck by the evil of terrorism. In that moment, she knew, her words of hope and healing would reach far beyond the borders of Oklahoma. They would now take her to New York City.

So, along with survivors and victims’ families, she boarded a plane and flew toward her destiny. It was there she saw the ultimate fulfillment of prayer as she escorted grieving individuals, one by one, to Ground Zero, beginning the long, but vital, process of healing. By meeting the Oklahomans, the people of New York were able to see firsthand that time and faith heal all wounds.

No one knows what the future holds, but for now, Kathleen’s on a mission, reaching out to the hurting, the wounded and to all who grieve with an inspiring message of hope born of prayer.

And back in Oklahoma, Ashley’s Garden still blooms.

Candy Chand

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