XENIA — Life within the display gardens, the butterflies and visiting birds at Greene County Parks & Trails’ James Ranch Park bring comfort and peace to Sharon Manley of Beavercreek.
Her son, Ryan, 26, spent his last day alive three years ago helping her garden in the butterfly garden that she and good friend, Susie Lentz, maintain as volunteers.
“It was a good day,” she remembered. “He helped Susie move some mulch and plant some things in the garden. The day after his funeral, I came out here. It’s a place of healing for me.”
Ryan excelled in academics and athletics as a stand-out pitcher. Following shoulder surgery from an athletic injury and prescription for painkillers, he began an eight-year gritty journey that ended in his death from the disease of addiction on June 2, 2015.
Today, a bench placed by GCP&T rests among the blooms, butterflies and garden breeze as a memorial to his life and as a touchstone for Manley to reflect on her son’s life. Three coreopsis that were planted that day by Ryan are replanted each year by Manley and Lentz in his memory.
“He was always smiling and so friendly. He loved baseball and all sports, as well as fishing with his dad, Kevin, spending time at the family cabin, music of all kinds and his church family. He also loved his dogs and graduated from Wright State University with a degree in psychology, which was awarded posthumously.”
Manley remembers coming back to the garden soon after Ryan’s death and seeing a dove rest on the butterfly water puddler for more than one hour.
“I feel close to him here,” she added. “I will work in this garden forever.”