Nothing soothes an aching heart like the sound of laughter.
That’s especially true for Shannon Katona of Maryland because the joy she brings is a direct result of keeping her son’s memory alive. She’s doing it all with a whimsical garden her neighbors just can’t get enough of.
Shannon started “Xanderland” shortly after her 21-year-old son passed away unexpectedly in 2015.
As she processed her grief, she decided to buy a dragon lawn ornament to memorialize Xander’s love of sci-fi and fantasy. She displayed the dragon, whom she named Gleep, proudly in her lawn and invited her friends to bring their own mementos to honor Xander.
From there, the homemade memorial grew into a mythical world, complete with fairies, tiny houses, and wind chimes.
It’s no surprise that the kids living nearby have fallen in love Gleep and his village! And since Shannon can often be found tending her garden (which spans two yards), she is able to enjoy their happiness as they admire Xanderland and play.
While nothing will ever take away the pain of losing her son, Shannon has found comfort in the garden that was built in his memory. While she could have made it a private place for reflection, she wanted to share it with the world because, in her words, “other people’s joy is also my joy.”
“We used to think grief got smaller and smaller, but now we think it’s like this big boulder,” she added. “You build stuff around it; you landscape it. … And you decorate it. You decorate your grief.”
This mom’s ability to turn tragedy into a gift for her community is truly remarkable! Now everyone will be able to remember her son and do it with joy in their hearts.
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