You see them along nearly every road in this country. Small white crosses marking the spot of a heart-wrenching tragedy, a place where someone has died in an automobile accident.
John Bevan was born on the side of the road as his teenage mother died from a tragic accident. He was adopted by Wayne Bevan, a kind hearted owner of an apple orchard, and it was in this orchard, along with his two older adopted brothers that John learned about life, love and family.
John also learned about loss along the way, and watched as his father erected two white crosses to remember two orchard workers who died in a truck crash, and then later placed a cross on his oldest son Tim’s grave after he died in a drowning accident. Those crosses held powerful meaning to Wayne Bevan, and he passed those sentiments down to his boys, so that when he died of lung cancer, John and his brother Scott placed a cross on their father’s grave as well.
But the small memorials take on an overwhelmingly personal meaning to John when his beautiful wife, his high-school sweetheart Emma Jane, and his unborn son were killed in a freakish car accident, leaving John and his small daughter Lou-Lou behind. In shock and grief, John erects two crosses for his wife and son on the side of the road, and visits them daily to the point of obsession. It’s the only thing that helps him cope with his loss, with his daughter’s refusal to talk, and with his family’s well-meaning, but misguided concern.
Then one day, he encounters a stranger who is kneeling beside his family’s crosses, giving them a touch-up of fresh paint. The man introduces himself as the Cross Gardener, and explains that it is his mission to take care of the many crosses in the Virginia valley. As John continues to run into the mysterious man, he begins to open up to him, and soon finds himself occupying the Gardener on his trips to various memorials.
As he learns more about his past, and visits the spots where his mother, his brother, and even the long-forgotten workers had left this earth, John begins to realize that although the accidents that took his loved ones were horrible to endure, that they were met by those who loved them to guide them home into God’s loving arms, and they were at peace. And someday, to his surprise, the Gardener assures John that he too would also met the person who would be his guide home, and it would amaze him as to who it would be.
“The Cross Gardener” is a touching, emotional look at the way people grieve when they lose a beloved member of their family and how they learn to cope in order to carry on their lives. Jason Wright’s style of storytelling captures the reader’s heart and draws them along on the journey to find forgiveness, acceptance and peace through this loving tale.
After reading this book, seeing a small white cross by the roadside might never be the same, and perhaps you can take the time to say a little prayer for the person it memorializes, and for the family left behind.
This book was deeply personal and touching for me, as my father was killed in a car accident 31 years ago, and although I want so badly to mark the area where he lost his life, I know that it would be destroyed due to the area of town where it happened. (He was a letter carrier in a poorer side of our town, and was hit by a drunk driver on his way back in to the post office after finishing his route.)
So I carry a small white cross in my heart for my daddy, and remember him daily.
I also see nearly weekly the white cross erected for my sweet cousin Gayla, a new mom, who lost her life to an idiot driver when she was just a young woman. I remember Gayla and her sweet daughter, Nicole, who was left behind, but has become such a sweet presence in our lives as she has grown up.
This book is from my personal collection.