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Gardening heals the heart

By RACHEL BREWSTER
DCN Reporter

Flowers spill from a yard on Third Street, overflowing onto the dull sidewalk to bring color, life, and beauty to the world. Contrasted against brooding government buildings, the blue house snatches the eye like Candyland in a cement city.

Carol Simat stands before her home, fingering a dying sunflower—proof that fall has come.

She brushes its core and a handful of seeds break away, tumbling to the soil below.

Carol straightens, glancing up at her house.

She and her husband had not intended to own the blue beauty when they moved in 16 years ago. But, like so many other things in their life, they considered it a miracle and a blessing.

With a keen eye and green thumb, the Simats began gardening and fixing up their new home in 1991.

It was no small task.

“If you do one project at a time … you can get it done,? says Carol.

The front yard is now a plethora of bright flower pots. They line the steps and wrap around the porch.

A violent-yellow dahlia stands to the side of the porch, bursting with petals and demanding attention.

“My husband was very creative,? she says.

They worked together on their garden project.

Marriage, on the other hand, was not always so harmonious for Brian and Carol Simat.

Usually, Thanksgiving is a time for families to gather together and be grateful for each other.

But a peek inside the window of the Simat home in November of 1979 would have revealed a different scene.

After eight years together, Brian and Carol were considering divorce.

At that time, they were both immersed in their business careers. Due to their “corporate-minded? lifestyle, they had grown independent and no longer felt the need to stay together.

“Everything looked good on the outside, but on the inside it wasn’t fulfilling,? she says.

Yet Carol wasn’t completely ready to walk away. For months, she prayed for guidance.

And it then came.

In January of 1980, she had a religious, eye-opening experience that she still cherishes to this day. It filled her with hope and faith.

Surprisingly, two days after Carol’s encounter with faith, Brian felt the same thing.

They decided to devote themselves to Christ.

“It changed everything for us,? she says.

Brian and Carol renewed their wedding vows on March 6 of that year.

From then on, the Simats dedicated their time and talent to the needy.

Their home became a haven as they opened welcoming arms to the physically and mentally handicapped. Certified by social services, they provided adult foster care for three years.

As “job coaches,? they accompanied disabled people to work to help them accomplish their tasks.

“We were learning a lot about people and a lot about ourselves at the same time,? Carol says.

Even her blossoming blue house is a “prayer project.? A flag in the back yard reads: ‘Gardening Grows the Spirit.’

Carol recalls that one day a woman walked by and commented on her flowers, saying that her attitude lifts, and she’s more optimistic when she passes Carol’s yard.

“God was responsible for creating it and making it grow,? says Carol.

Across the street is the New San Marcos, a supportive housing complex for the residents of Central Hillside. Lucy Horvatich and her co-workers enjoy the view.

“It brightens up this neighborhood…You can’t help but stare at it,? says Horvatich.

Beyond the flowers, engraved into the architecture of the house, is a trail of wooden hearts.

The tips of three large, red hearts kiss at the peak of the roof, forming a triangle.

They represent God’s love and compassion for the people of the Central Hillside.

“This neighborhood was a tough neighborhood when we first moved in here,? says Carol.

There used to be constant drug trafficking, vandalism and theft. Not all the problems have stopped, but they have decreased, she says.

“God has really intervened and helped the situation here,? says Carol.

Brian and Carol used to pray for the neighborhood together.

She does it alone now.

Two years ago, Brian Simat passed away.

He had a history of chronic heart problems and was gardening in the backyard when his chest tightened.

He put his tools down and moved to sit in his favorite spot, the picnic bench.
“And he was gone,? she said.

The man she loved and cherished, the man who—to this day—she calls “my hubby,? left her for another world.

“The Lord’s given me a lot of strength and peace,? she says.

Brian and Carol were married for 35 years.

Carol Simat walks up the long blue staircase outside and pauses on the patio next to a plant. She brushes a leaf with her fingertip. It is corduroy soft. A smile fills her green eyes.

Comments

I've always wondered as I've driven by that blue house what the owner's story is. The house stands out like a beacon of love for the home, in contrast to the other houses surrounding it. The yard and home are so well taken care of in a neighborhood that experiences so much theft and vandalism. It is such a beauty to walk by. I'd always thought that the owners must be Christians and must have the blood of Jesus working to provide protection over their property. What a blessing that house is to the neighborhood!