The meaning of a planter on a birthday

Published 8:17 am Friday, August 18, 2017

Today is Laura Lee Rico’s birthday.
She is 52.
For her birthday, her mother, Diana Mackenroth, adopted a planter on the city’s boardwalk opposite city hall. For the last five years, since Rico moved back to Port Arthur, the mother and daughter would sit next to the planters and watch the ships pass by as the seasons changed. The spot is special to them.
So, on Thursday, city workers planted new shrubs and worked the new dirt into the planter while another hammered small nails into a little brass plaque.
“A tribute for Laura Lee Rico,” it reads.
The planter is more than a birthday present.
It is also a memorial.
Mackenroth’s daughter is dying of stage four lung cancer, discovered July 1. After that, doctors discovered cancer in her bones. Then, after losing sight in her left eye, doctors discovered the cancer was in her brain, too.
Rico was supposed to be at the ceremony and the ceremony was supposed to be held on Friday, the day of her birthday. But the date had to be moved up.
“The end is very close and she’s unable to make it out there tomorrow,” Mackenroth said.
But Mackenroth took photos of the ceremony on Thursday and she showed them to her daughter, who looked over everything with the vision she has left.
“I told her we finished it today and she smiled,” Mackenroth said. “It pleased her.”
And so the planter is for Mackenroth, too.
“I can memorialize her,” she said. “I can come out here and sit and enjoy that garden. …  There will always be this place as long as I am here.”
Mackenroth is drawn to the water.
“This is one of my all time favorite places,” she said. Mackenroth said she was brought to the seawall as an infant and fell in love with it then.
“My grandfather used to take me every single evening to see the big boats,” she said.
For several decades, she didn’t go to the seawall.
Mackenroth’s husband was in the Coast Guard so, for 25 years, she missed her hometown. In the early ‘90s, when she returned, she said she was shocked.
“Well, I have long wanted to see Port Arthur come back to what I remember in my childhood,” she said. “It was a great place for families to be raised in those days. People didn’t park their cars in their yards. They trimmed their yards they didn’t put trash everywhere,” she said. “To see it like that it was a heart break to me, to see my hometown so deteriorated.”
And so the planter is also her way of doing something for the town.
She hopes it also serves as inspiration. The city does, too. City parks workers filled the neighboring planter with fresh soil in hopes of a group or a family adopting the planter.
“I might have neighbors,” Mackenroth said. “Wouldn’t that be wonderful!”
The city was happy to help.
Jerry Smith, the parks and recreation director, said the project meant something special to him.
“I was excited and compelled to help,” he said on Thursday. “My mother passed from cancer a year ago today and so it was great to help this lady. It felt like it was the right thing to do.
Mackenroth recalled that when she returned to Port Arthur in 1993 she began to walk down the seawall. Every evening, she’d talk a walk, up and down the barrier. She’d think about the past, how things used to be.
“I see things that the newcomers will never see, because they’re gone,” she said.
And so the planter serves as something permanent. It is something big, beautiful and, if not for forever, then at least for the rest of Mackenroth’s life, it will serve as something more than a memory.
“I wanted to do something lasting because I am going to be looking at memories very soon,” she said. “And I wanted it to be a lasting thing and maybe an inspirational thing.”
On the planter’s brass plaque, underneath her daughter’s name there is scripture, a passage from Ecclesiastes. The passage goes:
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war and a time of peace.

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