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Arbor’s Bahá’í Garden: Celebrating Diversity and Community

By Emma Givens, Guest Blogger

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Entrance to the Baha'i Garden. Photo by Kelly Brigley, project manager, Arbor Memorial

Canada is rich in diversity, from its plant life and landscapes to the people who call it home. An Arbor Memorial location where this diversity is uniquely celebrated is Capital Funeral Home & Cemetery. In addition to serving many multicultural communities in the Greater Ottawa area, Capital is home to Ontario’s first Bahá’í cemetery garden. Built with the collaboration of nine sectors of the Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’í in Ottawa, it is a final resting place of beauty and tranquility.

The Bahá’í are a growing community in Ottawa, tied more by shared beliefs than by ethnic or linguistic identity. This unity in diversity is a strength and core value of the community. That’s why, when Capital was approached by the Spiritual Assembly back in 2016, they encouraged Arbor’s designers and horticulturalists to take a creative approach to the community’s new garden.

Arbor’s planners quickly decided to orient the Bahá’í Garden eastward toward Haifa, Israel. The Hanging Gardens of Haifa are the spiritual centre of the Bahá’í, many of whom undertake a pilgrimage there to do volunteer work. While Ottawa certainly has a very different climate than Israel, the core traits of a botanical garden, including a variety of plant life and colours, were incorporated as the primary symbolism.

First, the garden was laid out in the shape of the Bahá’í nine-point star, with nine specimen trees planted at each point. These trees were chosen for their singularity and aroma therapy benefits. The goal is for visitors to remain in the present by appealing to all the senses, including touch and scent as well as sight. Tree species include lilac, honey locust, pine, aspen, tulip tree and silver maple.  An oak tree anchors each corner, while gingko represent a prehistoric specimen.

Flowers also play an important role. Roses have deep symbolic meaning. Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Bahá’í faith, mentions roses in his writing more than any other flower. They are often used as a metaphor to explain important Bahá’í teachings, like unity in diversity, the love of God, and the spiritual health of an individual in their community.

Other flowers were chosen for their appearance in scripture, their beauty, fragrance, or vibrant colours. Arbor’s garden designers choose perennial flowers because they return every year, and over time, grow naturally together. This aligns with the Baha’is’ emphasis on nurturing an interdependent community.

The Bahá’í Garden greets you with an archway, marked with bronze plaques, in English and French, commemorating the 2016 opening date. The garden offers a variety of memorials. Bronze, in-ground memorials are often preferred by Ottawa’s Bahá’í community, but we also offer upright monuments for a more traditional style. In alignment with Bahá’í burial rules, Arbor provides a hardwood casket option.

Serving Ottawa’s Bahá’í Community

Capital is proud to offer start-to-finish memorial services on site for members of the Bahá’í community. The funeral home features a dedicated space to carry out burial preparations, approved by the Spiritual Assembly’s Burial Task Force.

Ottawa’s Spiritual Assembly also benefits from a special Memorandum of Understanding for anyone who chooses to pre-plan their final arrangements at the Bahá’í Garden, which addresses the particular concerns of the community.

And, for every 20 spaces purchased in the Bahá’í Garden, Capital has pledged a free burial space for a family in need. The Spiritual Assembly of Ottawa will be able to choose the families that receive these spaces.

Beautification Day

In June, Capital will host a Bahá’í Garden Beautification Day. At this enjoyable, unifying event, we reinvigorate the garden by planting colourful perennial flowers in new garden beds. Derek Lemelin, Capital’s specialist for the Bahá’í community, will share the inspiration behind the garden, and be available to answer any questions.

For more information on the Bahá’í Garden or the upcoming Beautification Day, please call specialized representative Derek Lemelin at (613) 558-2085, or contact Capital Funeral Home & Cemetery.

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