Healing Garden gets intention, prayer house

Ron Burtz

The Healing Garden at Monument Hospital  Custer is getting a new addition that is hoped will be a place of meditation and prayer for folks in the community and may possibly aid in the prevention of suicide. A second-hand garden shed is being converted into an intention and prayer house through the efforts of a number of volunteers and contributors in the community and is open to everyone at all times.
The effort is the senior project of Custer High School student Kaitlyn Spring who is being mentored on the project by school board member Jeff Prior, owner of Dakota Greens. Providing inspiration and encouragement for the effort is Dr. Joy Falkenburg who got on board after Spring and Prior approached her about pursuing a project focused around suicide awareness and prevention.
“We were all deeply touched by the suicide of Jake Dietrich and we wanted to do something to memorialize him and to offer a helping hand to those who are suffering or in crises,” said Dr. Falkenburg.
She got the idea for the facility from “intention trees” she saw outside a hospital in California. She later saw the house concept when visiting her brother in Tennessee.
“The concept is that there is a creation of a safe and calm space for people who may be feeling vulnerable, suffering from grief, feeling anxiety or depression,” said Dr. Falkenburg, noting it might even be a holding space for those feeling suicidal.
She said several components of the house may be used as tools during stressful times.
“There is a table where you could sit and journal,” said Dr. Falkenburg. “Writing down fears, anxieties and troubles is a way of acknowledging and recognizing them. That paper could then be thrown away, given to a trusted professional or saved for later reflection. You could draw or create poetry or music.”
“There will be small tags where you can leave an intention,” she said. “Writing down a fear or requesting a prayer or positive energy or thoughts focused toward your need may help bring your awareness to it and others can read and see that everyone suffers and it is a natural part of all human lives, but not a permanent condition.”
The house also features a non-working telephone known as a “wind phone,” a concept created in a Japanese garden.
“You can sit and call those you need to say something to,” said Dr. Falkenburg. “People die and leave us unexpectedly. That trauma gets stuck in our body until we can release it—work through it. If people can find the words and speak them, the wind carries them to their loved ones. Sometimes, all people can do is cry onto the phone initially. They may return to speak to their loved one again.”
There is also a comfortable chair in the house where people can sit and consider things or find a centering place to meditate, pray or think.
“Many times things sort themselves out if we create the space we need,” said the doctor.
According to Dr. Falkenburg, though starting out as a senior project, the Intention Prayer House has taken the form of a community-wide effort.
After Spring found the shed on “Custer Buy, Swap and Sell” it was purchased with funds donated to the hospital’s Healing Garden. A stained glass window created by a local artist was purchased at the former Boyd’s Antiques north of Custer. An old grain bin cupola will be incorporated into the exterior of the building.
The building was moved by volunteer Scott Elmore and his boys and placed on an area just outside the garden fence that had been leveled by Prior.
Dave Fluck took care of the inside remodeling, volunteering all his time and materials, as well as paying for the flooring which was installed by Bret Shanklin.  
Mike Peacock is remodeling the exterior and Dr. Falkenburg and Josh Scheck worked on setting the posts for the fence surrounding it. John Woodhall is building the fence.
“That area will allow for some landscaping and a quiet reflective area that is private and more enclosed,” said Dr. Falkenburg, “comforting and enveloping...the intention house.”
Dr. Falkenburg said she will work with Spring and Prior on landscaping the area and would like to add a bench.
“It’s been a wonderful project,” the doctor said. “I’ve enjoyed working with numerous community volunteers and I’m cultivating community leadership in Kaitlyn.”

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