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A year ago this week I said goodbye to Boston and moved to Nashville. Of the many Boston memories that continue to steep in my heart and mind are several that took place in the Prouty Garden, an enclosed green oasis in the midst of Boston Children’s Hospital, in the midst of the congested area known as the Longwood Medical Area, home not only to Children’s but to Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and a host of other prestigious medical, academic, and research institutions.
Here too “space equals money,” to echo Jes Kast-Keat’s piece from last week, and the green space of Prouty Garden may soon be replaced with a new building—a much needed one, to be sure, as Children’s desperately needs an updated NICU and other expansions in order to keep pace with modern pediatric medicine. You can’t lag behind in facilities if you’re going to keep being the best children’s hospital in the nation, perhaps the world.
Click here or on the image below for last week’s story on the predicament:
And here’s another from a year ago, when the public first caught wind of the garden’s potential fate.
No one’s eager to raze the garden, of course; anyone can see what a treasure it is, how much it means to children, families, and staff as they relish the oasis from the beeping, sterile, rushed, fluorescent-lit indoor spaces in which they labor and hope for healing. The garden, as with nature generally, has its own healing capacities, and has been a place of respite and comfort for so many who need a place to play and pray, to breathe fresh air and be reminded that there is a climate beyond the medical climate. That’s how it was intended in 1956 when Olive Prouty endowed it in memory of her two deceased children and had it designed for Children’s by the famed Olmsted brothers.
Mine is one of the 6,200-plus names on the change.org petition to preserve the garden. Maybe it’s wishful thinking to hope the powers that be can find another way. Maybe reaching new heights in healthcare will simply have to come at the expense of such natural beauty as the garden’s majestic Redwood that has reached sunward for 65 years. But when I think of the innumerable sacred moments that have transpired in that garden, of the many bright young eyes that have delighted in the birds and flowers and foliage for the first time, hundredth time, or for the last time ever, I can’t sever my committed attachment to that place. I cherish it not just for those whose past is tied up with the garden, but for those yet to come, who at this moment have no idea how much they might someday need that half acre of retreat and renewal. I want to believe that being the best children’s hospital in the country means not only having cutting-edge facilities but also means being creative and savvy stewards of the unparalleled resources of nature and of the gifts of hearts that have yearned and grieved and celebrated on that lush terrain.
I wonder how the 6-year-old I blessed under that Redwood last July is doing. He was so curious about God, about Bible stories, about baptism. He decided he eventually wanted to be baptized off the shores of Cape Cod where he and his mother and grandmother lived. But he and his family wanted something to mark the journey he was making, through his repeated rounds of chemo and the looming bone marrow transplant that held his only chance of a real cure. So one afternoon we gathered in the garden and anointed him with oil, praying our blessings and love on his head and hands; I watched as tensions among his extended family were set aside as they took turns whispering in his ear and taking photos of his beaming face. Someone brought a cake. An aging great-aunt gave him a long-treasured rosary. Cousins chased each other around the fountain. The IVs dangling from his limbs, such central foci of concern in the hospital room, were temporarily part of the background, and for a short spell we could fully foreground the people and stories and sentiments that reflect his true identity, lab results be damned. I can’t fathom a more fitting place for that scene. The soil holds so much past and so much promise.