Finding Hope in Hopelands Gardens

This week, in the middle of our work day, our middle daughter, Olivia texted her daddy and me with a message. “I think I had a seizure“. This is not a message either of us wanted to see while at work in Atlanta, Photo Jul 12, 10 52 51 PM2.5 hours away from her. Olivia suffers from epilepsy and is attending culinary college in Augusta, GA. She had made it 13 months without an episode and we all felt a false sense of security, that maybe it wouldn’t happen while she was away. I immediately got into my car and headed her direction.  She is fine, albeit sick to her stomach and beat up.  Her shoulder dislocates during her seizures and even after surgery still causes her pain. It was hurt again. Her tongue was gnawed on during the attack and had huge tears on the sides and tip. She had dark circles under her eyes and was still disoriented when I arrived, but she is alive and safe. She sleeps 90% of the day after the seizure and it takes her a full 48 hours to gain energy enough to do much of anything, it will be a week before she feels remotely herself again. it takes a toll on the mind and spirit as much as the body.

Photo Jul 13, 7 58 14 AM
Snuggling post seizure.  Olivia’s kitty (Bast) is an excellent photo bomber

Her spirit was crushed with the hope that maybe, just maybe a miracle happened and she would never have another. The hope that she would be able to drive soon and live a normal life of a 19 year old student, were dashed. Olivia doesn’t talk much about the pain caused by seizures. She just says, “Epilepsy doesn’t have me, I have epilepsy“. She is not going to allow it to control her life. She doesn’t complain, but when I see her holding her arm close to her body, or hear her talk with a lisp because her tongue is chewed up, I know she is hurting. It’s difficult for her entire family.

EPhoto Jul 13, 10 35 45 AM (1)ven though our hopes were squashed, there is always hope. Without it what would humanity be?  We hope for love, the end of wars, a family, a job, a long life.  We also hope for sunshine, or rain depending on our needs. Our current need was to give Olivia positive vibes: in comes Olivia’s best friend Mikayla. We have known her and her mother since the girls were in 2nd grade, and they are family. Even though the two girls attend different schools and only see each other on breaks they still remain close. When Mikayla heard that Olivia had a seizure she dropped her plans and came to check on her bestie. The day after the seizure, even though Olivia didn’t feel up to much of anything, we thought flowers, sunshine and laughter were in order. As a plus it was Mikayla’s 20th Birthday! I did a quick Google search for what was near us and Hopelands Gardens, Akin, SC came up.

Hopelands Gardens was bequeathed to the town of Aiken by Mrs. Hope Islein and is now a city park. Mrs. Islein spent only winters in Aiken (I mean, Y’all it is hot here) and planted the now 150 year Oaks and Cedars as well as large estate gardens.  We had no idea what to expect when we arrived. We parked and walked over to a welcome sign, pulled out a brochure and became excited. “Welcome to the Labyrinth at Hopeland Gardens” it said.


“The labyrinth is a metaphor for life’s journey… Follow the path to the center and when you arrive linger and absorb all that the labyrinth and garden has to offer”

Side Note: The labyrinth was modeled after the Amiens Cathedral, France.

2017-07-13 10.51.12-1We set off down the path choosing a direction as we came to forks in the stone walkway. Walking under these trees provided shade as well as beauty, on the scorcher of this summer day. The trees are massive and beautiful with their long ivy covered branches arching out to the sides. The birds and girls chattered softly as we went.

Olivia was definitely on the “struggle bus”. She lacked energy and was stumbling about clumsily, which is very normal after a seizure.

2017-07-13 10.52.13-1



We came upon three brick reflecting pools guarded by two hound statues where the original house once stood. We lingered here for a bit, to allow her to rest. The pools water was algae green and reflected the tree tops. Tiny fish could be seen swimming within the green depths. A gentle breeze swept in.

A mother and child sat near us playing in the pool water and my two girls sat discussing a duck that Mikayla named “Quackers“.

Photo Jul 13, 10 47 56 AMIt was apparent Olivia’s spirits were being renewed by her friend in the warmth of the sun. Continuing along we hugged a few trees, “climbed” in a big oak, and rested by the small pond where we watched dragonflies, ducks and turtles play in the water. It was quiet and peaceful as we lay there on the green grass by the small stone gazebo. Olivia closed her eyes and rested on the banks of the pond as her friend sat near.


We found the labyrinth and the girls made their way to the center.  The sun was high in the sky and shined directly upon them. Olivia lifted her face towards the sun and closed her eyes and said, “absorb the good vibes of the labyrinth and gardens, Mikayla“. Together they stood there motionless, faces towards the sky. The best of friends in unity, soaking up the sunshine, warmth, air, and earth.  I stood on the outside of the labyrinth and allowed them to follow their “life’s journey”.  I smiled.  Our spirits were revived.  There is hope where there is the love of  friends and family.

Photo Jul 13, 2 17 34 PM
“Absorb the good vibes of the labyrinth”

Keep the Lust for Wandering through Life’s Labyrinth Y’all


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