From Fr. Nick Kotsis - When we moved into our house in 2005, the west end of our backyard needed a lot of work. The area from the southwest corner toward the front was filled with the stumps of small trees and bushes of an overgrown area the previous owners had ignored for a while. It took me two years to completely clear that area. All that was left was a large maple tree about 30 feet from that southwest corner.
Over time, I started to landscape the area on my own – I love to garden and work outside. I put a ring of small rocks around the maple, planted myrtle inside the circle and around the maple’s trunk, sectioned off the area, and planted bleeding-hearts (a gift from my mother-in-law) along my neighbor’s fence.
I had a grand idea to make a path of large pavers from near the front of the house, winding through that area, and out in another section on the south part of the yard. I did. At one end of the path I put an arbor (gift from my father) and we plant morning glories at the base every spring. On the opposite end of the path I planted two rose-of-sharon trees on each side of the path. Then I put a bench in that southwest corner. On each side of the bench I put in some posts and hang numerous pots of flowers in the summer. This was the important part of the whole idea because it was specifically meant for my wife so she could relax there in the nicer months of the year with the kids. I called it her “throne.”
Around the bench I planted some daisies and balloon flowers that Joan Raphael had given me before she moved out of her home. She also gave me several interesting rocks that her husband had collected through his work over the years. Those were carefully placed by the bench. Not far from the bench, I planted a hydrangea that Fr. John and Presvytera Eva had given us at Easter in 2006 (I have since transplanted that to the front of the house).
Diane Hall split some of her hostas one year, and she brought a dozen of them over to the house without me even knowing (c.2009). I planted those on the edge of the area close to the yard.
My father had given me about 4 dozen tulips one year. I planted them at the south end of the landscaping. That gave me the brilliant idea to line the entire path with tulips. So, I bought a ridiculous amount and planted them on both sides of the entire path so that when the queen would process to her throne it would be flower laden. That next spring, wow, it was beautiful! But the tulips I planted didn’t last! So, I replaced them two years later with daffodils. (The daffodils are doing great and spreading, and my dad’s tulip’s still come up – I suppose I shouldn’t have bought the cheap-o tulips!).
One year, Mike Kapetan gave me 4 twigs of forsythia. I planted one near the path and the others on the east side of the house. I since transplanted the one near the path and all are now huge and help usher in spring every year.
In an empty section I planted a brunnera plant (beautiful blue flowers, like forget-me-nots) Maria Papaefthymiou had given us. They have since spread and we’ve split them and moved them into other areas as well.
On the side of the maple near the house, along the edge of the landscaping, I placed numerous bird feeders so that when the queen and her children sit quietly at the bench, they can be greeted by these feathered courtiers. The Yocum family, Angelo Bairactaris (made by his own hands), and my sister-in-law Elaine gave us birdfeeders and houses of all sorts. My brother Andrew gave us an owl box (only squirrels are squatting there, ah phooey!).
At entrance to the path, to the side of the arbor, I planted a few buttercups that Demetra had given. They have spread into the entire area beautifully.
My mom had an old wooden bench with wrought iron sides that she had in her garden for years. She had painted it numerous times, but the wood final succumbed to the elements. She asked if I wanted the iron parts. I said, “sure.” I rebuilt that bench and added it to the area near the arbor.
One day, I came home from the church and no one was home. I went outside and sat on the bench I rebuilt (the “throne” bench is only for the queen, of course). I thought to myself, “it’s peaceful being here all alone.” And then I realized something very important. I saw the plants from my mother-in-law, Joan, Demetra, Diane, Maria, Fr. John and Presvytera Eva, my father, Mike, and others. I saw the birdfeeders from the Yocums, Angelo, Andy and Elaine. I saw the bench beneath me from my mother. And I realized how much I am always surrounded by the presence of the faithful. The plants are gifts of life, and the feeders, houses and benches all support life and help it thrive. All these things were the result of people acting out of love for my family and me. All these things were the results, therefore, of quiet prayers offered on our behalf through their actions. With their prayers, and the ones I know you all offer, I know that the Lord is also always with me.
Even when we may be confined to our homes, and even if we may live alone, we know that the prayers of our brothers and sisters from the church are always with us. They strengthen us and help sustain us.
Please continue to reach out to our brothers and sisters from the community. When you do, it reinforces the truth that Christ indeed is always present with us. Amen.