Glenwood Memorial Gardens in Alberta is a haven of hills among the prairies. In our first blog post on Arbor’s cultural gardens across Canada, we looked at the importance of hills for our many Chinese Gardens. At Glenwood, our hills on the Northwest end of the property also provide a scenic place of rest for departed loved ones from our Vietnamese community.
History and Design of Glenwood’s Vietnamese Garden
Glenwood’s Vietnamese Garden is open to—and beloved by—families from many different religious backgrounds, including Catholics. However, the majority of Vietnamese families in the area practice Buddhism and Glenwood has fostered close relationships with both the Truc Lam Monastery and the Ming Ya Senior Citizen Assocation, the heart of spiritual life for many Vietnamese Buddhists in Edmonton. These significant relationships are why a tall Buddha statue stands in our Vietnamese Garden. There’s also an outdoor fireplace where families can gather and safely burn offerings for ancestors.
Overall, this is first and foremost a cultural garden renowned for its beauty. It’s set on a north-facing hillside that gently slopes down to a still water pond. At the bottom of the pond stands a pagoda, which ties together beautifully with the pagoda rooftops on many of the upright headstones in the garden. When visiting, you’ll see that many of the headstones in our Vietnamese Garden are made of either red or black marble, made to stand the test of time while also adding to the cohesive, beautiful setting.
Importantly, the headstones in Glenwood’s Vietnamese Garden are set at the “foot of space.” This means they’re positioned so that visiting family can stand close in front of the marker as they read it, with their loved one’s final place of rest directly behind. There’s significance to this decision from both a symbolic and scenic point of view: visiting families face the same direction as their loved one who’s passed on, and all share a view of the peaceful waters and rolling hills.
Time and time again, members of Glenwood’s Vietnamese community remark on the serenity of the garden and its natural beauty, standing out in the prairie sky on a hill with a northern view. We’re honoured to provide the community with a serene final place of rest that highlights the Vietnamese culture and supports traditional practices around the journey of grief.