May 8, 2016

The kiss of the sun for pardon,
The song of the birds for mirth,
One is nearer God’s heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on Earth.

— From English poet Dorothy Frances Gurney’s 1913 poem, God’s Garden.

BERKLEY — “Don’t forget to stop and smell the flowers,” Mum has reminded me often over the years, and that well-known phrase isn’t a cliche when it comes from a devoted English gardener named Gwyneth Rose Campbell.

Her mother had Dorothy Frances Gurney’s words in a frame on a wall somewhere in the home she shared with her parents and two sisters in Widnes, Lancashire — about 12 miles southeast of the busy port of Liverpool — in the difficult years before, during and after World War II.

In 1944, she met Robert Campbell, a kindly U.S. Army corporal who was stationed at a nearby base, and exchanged numerous letters with him after the war. Mum served three adventure-filled years in London and Hampshire in the Women’s Royal Naval Service, then married my father in Widnes on September 15, 1951.

Because most of the good jobs in post-war England were going to local lads and my father was working as a draftsman in Detroit, the very next day she had to bid tearful farewells to her beloved family, friends and homeland.

Mum and Dad eventually settled in Berkley, where they raised my older brothers Rod, Rich and me. Her much-complimented garden helped remind her of the green and pleasant land dear to her heart.

“I love all flowers in season — pansies in the spring, roses in the summer, mums in the fall, on and on,” says Mum, a proud grandmother of four, still looking great at the age of 87. “Lilies, snapdragons, impatiens, on and on!”

Dad passed away in 1996. Mum dedicated a special section of her garden to him — pink moss rose, white and red hibiscus, yellow daffodils, purple petunias — and highlighted it with a sign quoting that special verse from God’s Garden and a decorative stone inscribed with one essential word.


These days she gazes out often at Dad’s plot from her kitchen window. Just in time for Mother’s Day, her pretty blue forget-me-nots are beginning to bloom.

And as sure as a mother’s boundless, eternal love, spring will soon turn to summer. Exquisite fragrances will once again sweeten the garden she has nurtured for so long.

I used to take Mum’s lovely garden for granted. But now that I am older, I have a deeper appreciation for those flowers, and for the wise, kind-hearted soul who planted them.

Now, I will gratefully breathe them in.

Berkley-based freelance writer Ron Campbell can be reached at


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