The widower who built a garden: 'It became a path back to the man my wife fell in love with'

Tim and his late wife, Kim

One can never truly get over the loss of a loved one; the pain of it ebbs and flows, sometimes excruciating in its intensity, and other times a dull and constant ache.

For Tim, losing his wife was a time of hurt, and, seeking a sense of peace, he decided to build a garden – something Kim had always wanted to do with him – to remember her by.

Speaking to indy100, Tim, from Texas, recalled that the loss of his wife in 2017 initially made him feel like he was “imploding”.

Due to a situation that spiralled out of my control, she was left in a state that saw her unable to communicate in any way, incapable of being part of her own narrative, in a shell that languished for an unspeakable amount of time.

When she passed away, Tim felt like he was “failing in the most important oath that could exist [with] the person that set entirely new bars for the concepts of love and partnership, in the moments where she most trusted me to be the person she married, entrusted to be her voice when hers no longer worked”.

I was imploding.  I felt detached from everything and everyone,  being a father.

One day I imagine how absolutely frustrated she would've been to see that, and how hurt she would've been to even be associated with that sort of pain and obsession. 

I found myself constantly looking for ways to include her, to give meaning to even her smallest opinions, like imagining her scolding at me for leaving a mess somewhere so that I clean it, or looking up a craft for our daughter that I knew wouldn't have come to me is a natural inclination without her. 

The cost of his late wife’s medical bills, care and legal fees took its toll on the financial situation in his and his daughter’s life, and they eventually moved into a co-worker’s house who was willing to rent a few rooms to him.

It was here, while he was mowing the lawn, he got the idea to do something with it.

While I was doing that, I started thinking back to the garden my wife and I always said we would create when we owned house. It wasn't the biggest promise, but it was one that felt in my control. It was one that would be visible, exist outside my own head.  It was one that would've made her smile, something constructive, something meaningful. 

Besides, there aren't a lot of other exhausting, destructive, raw releases of energy appropriate to give into in front of our daughter.

I asked if it was okay to tear up the entirety of the yard and build a garden with almost no plan and even less experience. 

For reasons that are entirely beyond me, I got the go-ahead.

I built a garden because I was sad. 

Tim had “no idea” how to build a garden.

He didn’t realise how hard it was to dig holes in clay, or how much time it would take, but he decided to embark on the creation of the garden anyway. He bought compost and filled the 5ft diameter garden, and planted a number of flowers and plants, including liriope, ajuga, the acanthus mollis and a datura metel.

I entered into it figuring that the worst-case scenario was that I really sucked at it and was making a huge mistake, but that wouldn't be anything a rake and a bunch of grass seed wouldn't fix.

It became a path back towards being the man my wife fell in love with. I owed that to her, to myself and our daughter.

His late wife Kim "hated heat, and the sun, sweating [and] had allergies to almost everything". But she loved nature.

We would take our daughter to the park just about every other day, the botanical gardens once or twice a month - I made sure she had a small memorial garden there, staying through September at least - and we had a membership to the local wilderness park, where we would drive 5 miles an hour with our daughter on our lap so we could pet zebras.

Kim and daughterKim and daughter

Looking back, I think she already found what I've only recently discovered around the idea of gardening. Just the freedom to focus on the experiences happening around you, without any demands or goals, just the experiences.

Tim uploaded a series of photos about his garden on imgur, and his touching story was viewed hundreds of thousands of times, and shared across multiple media platforms. What did he think of the sudden attention?

I meant to share it on a gardening forum, just sort of a release, and had no idea imgur had it's own community of sorts... Much less that nearly a quarter million people would have viewed a wordy post about a garden.  I definitely wouldn't choose to slap it up haphazardly again in a do-over. 

More than anything, I get bothered seeing it pop up in click bait. ‘Man starts a garden for his late wife, didn't think this would happen!’

Overall, I am a pretty funny guy I think, likely because I'm a dad and that's part of what you think as a dad. The chronicle I made was light-hearted and honest, about more than some plants or sadness... and I guess it's a little frustrating to see how completely overlooked that becomes in a lot of retellings.

Picture: Tim, and his late wife Kim 

Regardless, my wife would be laughing her ass off, at me, and over the whole of it.  

Can't argue with results like that.

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