We have another tradition too. It's not planned by the city or a volunteer committee. But it affects the whole community. You might call it the Mourning Barn.
It stands just outside of town on Marine Drive. It hasn't sheltered animals for years, yet the fields all around it are farmed and the nearby apple and plum trees, their trunks wrapped in mesh to keep critters away, bear lovely fruit.
Life is real in Stanwood, and not everyone makes it to graduation. Sometimes kids die. Just in the last few years we've lost teens to sickness, to accidents, and to violence.
When that happens, their friends gather at the barn with paint and a plan. They prop up their ladders and turn the north wall of the barn into a memorial for their friend. It gives them a way to deal with their grief, to support one another, and to keep their friend's memory alive.
We've watched the barn go through many changes in our years living in Stanwood. I've cried to see the name of another young person whose life was just too short.
Earlier this year a 7-year-old girl was accidentally shot by her younger brother. She was rushed to the hospital, but she did not survive. The barn became a huge yellow canvas with her name, Jenna, written across the wall in lavender.
I drove by the barn last Wednesday afternoon, the day of Jen's service, and I saw a group of kids gathered to paint the barn. It was Jen's 15-year-old daughter, Hayley, and her friends, pouring themselves into a healing project.
No longer just for teens, the Mourning Barn is now opening its doors to the entire community, reminding us of those among us that we have loved and lost. Who ever would have dreamed that a barn could offer such comfort?
|Hayley (right) with friend