It was a perfect day for swinging, as a group gathered at Austin College to dedicate the Eleanor Elizabeth Barker Memorial Garden on Saturday, May 14, would agree. And, outside Dean Hall, the lovely campus garden where the friends met provided the perfect spot to remember the beautiful blonde-haired little girl who loved to swing.
Family and friends of Philip and Kelly Barker assembled to, as Austin College President Marjorie Hass said, “make holy” the area that memorializes Phil and Kelly’s daughter and Jack’s sister, Ella.
“Phil and Kelly, on behalf of the Austin College family, I thank you for creating this very special place on campus for meditation, relaxation, and reflection,” Dr. Hass said. “May the Eleanor Elizabeth Barker Memorial Garden provide peace and comfort to those who find their way here. This beautiful garden will provide a lasting legacy honoring Ella’s life and her love of swinging.”
Nestled among the Live Oak Memorial established in 1919 to honor the College’s World War I alumni casualties, the garden completed in early May already has become a favorite spot among students for conversation and enjoying the beauty of the outdoors.
A simple plaque marks the area: “This garden is dedicated to the memory of Eleanor Elizabeth Barker who loved to swing.” The plaque also includes the quotation, “In the last analysis, all moments are key moments and life itself is grace.”
Friend Justin Klassen, visiting assistant professor of religious studies, was invited by the Barkers to share a blessing. “The truth is that we are not always open to the world’s many unique graces,” he said. “And while Ella did not die in order to teach us this, or any other lesson (for the author of creation grieves our loss with us), that doesn’t mean we can’t learn, in our pain, to give ourselves more fully to this world of key moments. And so today, in dedicating this space to her memory, we single it out and declare ourselves grateful for its distinctiveness. Cherishing it as we cherish Ella in recollection, we give newfound thanks for all moments, places, and graces.” Read Justin’s full comments.
To close the dedication, Jack Barker and several other children present released butterflies in the garden. While the winged creatures slowly floated among them and birds chirped happily in the trees, other guests spent time visiting—and swinging.