Deep inside the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska is a kid-friendly maze garden blooming with kindness.
The maze serves as a popular go-to destination throughout the year for parents with small kids. It is a pleasant site where one may savor the greenery of late spring or the sparkling colors of fall.
Kids lost in the maze ask for help in loud shrieks. Their moms and dads stand atop an overlook watching their puzzled little ones. After a constant plea for help, the moms and dads give in and shout tips, guiding their little ones out.
While a game of winding tunnels goes on inside the maze, kids outside are more content to run around. The tricky yet friendly-looking maze does not fool them.
Amid the loudness of the kids filling the space, there is also a silent emotional symphony playing out.
Many people visit the maze to tune in to that symphony by sitting on one of the weathered wood benches at the entrance to the maze garden. Others walk around the corner to a small courtyard lined with kiln-fired bricks.
The benches and bricks are memorials for lost loved ones placed by family and friends. Short messages etched on them silently play the emotions left behind in a multitude of memories.
The maze garden keeps telling two radically different stories: one written by energetic children, the other by those quietly standing near their loved one’s memorial.
One could assume the two stories play out on parallel tracks that never meet. But an encounter on Sept. 16, 2015, shattered that assumption.
Two tracks collide
Colorful cupcakes decorated a long picnic table during a birthday party at the maze garden that day.
A cute 3-year-old girl rushes toward the maze, then sits on a bench.
A couple comes and asks for permission to sit beside her.
The girl hesitantly agrees to share the bench, and the couple compliments her mom for raising such a courteous child.
During their conversation, the mom points to a little boy in a red shirt celebrating his 8th birthday.
That caused a shocking surprise for the couple.
The couple told the mom that every Sept. 16, they come here to place flowers on their daughter’s memorial bench to observe her birthday. The cute 3-year was sitting on that very bench.
What surprised the couple most was the number “8.”
Coincidently, it was the eighth year the couple observed their daughter’s birthday without her physical presence. And the birthday boy in red was also turning 8.
Fast forward to Sept. 16, 2016.
The couple arrived at their daughter’s memorial bench, flowers in hand, to observe another birthday without her.
A surprise flowerpot accompanied by a card greeted them.
It was from the mom of the boy in red. She wrote a soothing and healing message to the couple, comforting them in their loss. It was a kind gesture that is hard to find these days.
Kindness, it proves, is very much alive in this world. Just look around. You might find another mom of a boy in red comforting a grieving stranger.
Concealed is the identity of the kind mom because the writer did not seek her permission. But it is important to identify the couple with the flowers in hand.
This memorial bench at the Arboretum is for Shreya Dixit, killed by a distracted driver on Nov. 1, 2007. Photo courtesy of Vijay and Rekha Dixit.
Editor’s note: Vijay Dixit is the chairman of Shreya R. Dixit Memorial Foundation, a 501-c-3 nonprofit advocating distraction-free driving. He is also a board member of Eden Prairie Local News and a member of the EPLN Development Committee and journalism team.