According to the Census Bureau, at least 15% of people under 35 have lost a parent. Katie Diez, an Oregon resident, had a similar experience. She struggled with her father’s death for ten years before finding solace in the most unlikely of places: his shirts. Diez’s life was turned upside down when she discovered dried seeds in the pockets of her father’s shirt. Those seeds grew into strawberries, which grew into a treatment, which grew into a worldwide phenomenon. Find out about Katie Diez’s inspirational story and the work of her charity, Comfort Seeds.
Katie is hopeful of the future, but it wasn’t always like this
Katie Diez has a talent for finding joy in the midst of adversity. She is a pediatric occupational therapist, a co-founder of Comfort Seeds, the author of a children’s novel, and plans a trip to Copenhagen, Denmark. “My cup is full,” she said in an interview with The Nugget Newspaper. Diez, on the other hand, was not always of this mind. The mother from Oregon struggled for ten years before finding a way to improve her situation.
Her father’s death crushed her
After a long battle with cancer, Diez’s father died in 2006. The defeat had a devastating effect on Diez. She was speechless and found herself clinging to his old belongings. Diez kept her father’s button-up shirts, which he still wears today. Diez and her siblings inherited some of their father’s belongings and went on with their lives. However, she had no idea how much the shirts owed her in ten years.
She kept his shirts all these years
For years, Diez has been wearing her father’s shirts. In her home state of Oregon, she drove them from one house to the next. Diez’s life progressed while her daughter matured into a lovely adolescent. She couldn’t bear the idea of parting with the shirts, though. Diez had no idea what to do with them, so she stuffed them into the back of her closet. But she couldn’t just leave them there; what would she do with her father’s old shirts?
His 10th death anniversary
In 2016, Diez marked the tenth anniversary of her father’s death. She then took her father’s button-up shirts out of the drawer and pondered what she should do with them. That’s when she came up with the idea to make a quilt out of the shirts and give it to her mother and siblings as a gift. But what is the problem? Diez had no idea how to make a quilt. This did not deter her. “I only leap into projects as I know I want to do something to work it out,” she clarified.
Remembering him once again
Diez had to remember not only how to quilt but also how to scrub the shirts. The majority of them had been wrinkled from being stored for over a decade. Diez joked, “My father wasn’t great at washing sheets.” Diez spent a significant amount of time ironing the shirts for the first time in years. For her, it became a meditative experience. Her father’s smells were brought up by the hot iron, which brought back a flood of memories.
When Diez ironed the shirts, she discovered small trinkets tucked inside the folds. A sticker given to Diez’s grandfather by Diez’s daughter was found in one of the pockets. Food scraps and clumps of pocket lint were also discovered. In one of her shirts, she discovered a dry plant seed. She turned it off and went back to work, just like she had with the other trinkets. The idea of this seed, on the other hand, plagued Diez. She resented throwing it away and wished she had rooted it instead.
It wasn’t easy for her
During the quilting process, Diez kept a journal of her thoughts and feelings. She described how difficult it was for her to tear her father’s shirts up. She explained, “I’ve noticed that if I don’t use a piece of cloth, I feel bad.” She compared eating the whole carcass of a hunted cow to using the quilts. “It sounds like I’m field-dressing a buck, which is ironic because Dad was a shooter.” Regardless, she continued to work on the quilt.
Diez’s only blunder was throwing away a seed she found in one of her father’s shirts. But then, while working on the quilt, a miracle happened. She came across yet another crop! “I had thrown away the first one and regretted not attempting to sprout it,” Diez wrote in her journal. “I felt like I won the lottery when I discovered ONE MORE seed! I’m soaking it and want to plant it soon.” That’s exactly what she did.
She refused to give up
After some investigation, Diez discovered it was a tomato seed. She resurrected it by submerging it in water. A few days after she planted it, a tiny shoot poked through the ground. When Diez was adding fertilizer, he began to wash it. After doing some research on tomato growth, Diez went to the hardware store. She kept the tomato plant in her laundry room and took care of it regularly.
A new life
In just two months, it had grown into a magnificent plant. She explained, “I’ve been nurturing it for the past two months, and it’s now four feet tall and growing tomatoes.” “And it was stuck to a shirt for ten years in a box.” The tomato grew to be ten feet long in the end! Every year, Diez and her daughter moved the plant outside and harvested new tomatoes. Her life was changed by the seed she initially brushed aside.
Reconnecting to her lost loved ones
Diez grew closer to her late father as she grew the tomato plant. He was also an avid gardener, which she discovered when she discovered the seeds in his coat. “My father was a gardener and seeing it had significance for me,” Diez later clarified. Her quilt, on the other hand, was coming along nicely. In 2016, Diez gave the gift to her relatives for Christmas. Her mother and siblings cherished her father’s memory and adored the quilt. They didn’t learn about the farm, though.
She kept it a secret
Diez devoted a lot of time to her tomato plant, but she never told her family about the seeds she discovered in her father’s clothes. By erecting a grow lamp, her brothers and mother assisted her with planting. They were, however, completely unaware of the significance. “They’re used to me doing strange things,” Diez explained, “but they didn’t pose too many questions.” She had also dabbled in gardening with her aunt previously. She was honing her skills now.
How everything multiplied
Her father’s tomato farm-inspired Diez to become a seed saver. A variety of vegetable seeds were fermented, roasted, and processed by her. Her backyard was turned into a greenhouse filled with a variety of beautiful plants. Because she had a few extra seeds, Diez wanted to share the love. “It’s just a cool tale that we figured we’d share,” she said. Gardening also provides a task for bereaved people to complete. It gives people living at a time when they are surrounded by death.
She shared her hobby
Diez began telling others about her love of gardening. She gave seeds to relatives and family members who had recently lost a loved one. She’d tie them together with a small note about her father’s story. Diez made a grief aid out of a seed from her father’s shirt. Her father’s legacy lives on through the people she has helped by planting crops. The sources were a hit with her pals! Diez wanted to expand on this idea because she was already satisfied.
She shared with children
Diez’s husband is also a psychiatric specialist. He volunteers at a summer camp for girls every year. In 2017, Diez agreed to participate in her husband’s camp to share her love of gardening. Planting seeds with the kids was a lot of fun! They felt accomplished when they saw their plants grow, and gardening helped them work through difficult situations. Diez witnessed firsthand the benefits of planting for the first time. Because of her father, she realized she’d find her calling in life.
Founding Comfort Seeds
Diez started a company called Comfort Seeds out of her seed-sharing. The organization’s goal is to use planting to help citizens cope with loss. According to Diez, it plays into the archetypal concepts of death and rebirth. “It makes you want to get your hands in the dirt and figure out a new way to help the universe,” Diez said. Every year, she visits the children at her husband’s camp to give them Comfort Seeds and teach them about gardening.
A Children’s book
Not only does Diez run Comfort Seeds, but she’s also working on a children’s book. Manda Severin, an illustrator and former counselor based in Oregon, was recently contacted by her. They’re working together on a new Comfort Seeds book. A decorated seed package, as well as growing instructions, will be included in the book. Diez hopes that the reader will be able to help children cope with depression and other stressful situations. As of early 2021, it is still a work in progress.
The illustrator, Manda Severin, is a firm believer in Comfort Seeds. She’s lining her studio’s walls with drawings of gardens and woods, effectively cultivating her Comfort Seeds. She remained upbeat about the novel despite the dangerous Oregon fires. Severin said, “I have to trust in this kind of perfection that can overcome great tragedy.” She believes in Comfort Seeds’ philosophies of existence and rebirth, which is why she agreed to take on Diez’s initiative.
While Diez and Severin were working on the children’s books, wildfires raged across Oregon. When smoke filled the air in September 2020, Diez was trapped in her home. She explained, “I keep staring out the window, thinking the smoke will disperse.” Both women, on the other hand, remained hopeful that Oregon would recover. Death will give way to rebirth, according to the themes of Comfort Seeds. “Things will rise again,” Severin predicted, despite the forest’s destruction.
When Comfort Seeds went viral on social media, it sparked worldwide interest. To clarify Comfort Seeds’ mission statement, Diez created an Instagram and Facebook profile. She frequently shares personal stories about how gardening has benefited them. The local newspaper, The Nugget Newspaper, and broader publications, such as Atlas Obscura, quickly reported Comfort Seeds. Diez’s mission inspired people from all over the world. It has piqued the interest of psychologists from around the world.
Even An International Museum
Diez’s passion project drew Onor Hanreck Wilkinson, a researcher at the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark. The Happiness Institute has been researching how social networking, jobs, COVID-19, and other factors influence people’s happiness since 2013. “Many visitors who come to our office believe it’s a wild utopia of dogs and ice cream,” Dr. Wilkinson said. Even though they are unable to have dogs, they research what makes people happy.
The Happiness Museum
In July 2020, the Happiness Research Institute will open the Happiness Museum. Researchers discuss happiness and why many people consider Denmark one of the world’s happiest countries. Researchers requested donations of artifacts that bring joy to their owners when the Museum first opened. There were hundreds of submissions. Diez came across this fundraising appeal and decided to donate some of her Comfort Seeds. She also explained to the researchers how her seeds had helped children in therapy.
An Entire Museum
Wilkinson and his colleagues were profoundly affected by Diez’s seeds. Wilkinson described it as “touching.” Diez’s seeds were not only chosen as one of the 18 displayed donations, but she was also given a permanent display. Comfort Seeds will have its own exhibit at the Happiness Museum. Diez intends to install the exhibition herself in Copenhagen. She’d have to wait for the lockout to be lifted before beginning her journey across the world.
With a museum show and a children’s book on the road, Comfort Seeds is quickly expanding. Because of her father’s shirts, Diez has helped hundreds of people dealing with depression and traumatic events. “A lot of nice, magical things have emerged from that little seed that was attached to my dad’s shirt for ten years,” Diez said. She’s already making plans to visit the Happiness Museum and is patiently waiting for the universe to calm down enough for her to plant Comfort Seeds.
Got her attention
Priscilla Bailey, a woman from Plymouth, Massachusetts, was browsing through a thrift store when she came across an ornament that caught her eye. She discovered that the decoration was available for only two bucks. Priscilla thought it was a fantastic deal and decided to buy the ornament right away. It wasn’t until she got home that she realized something wasn’t quite right.
Something odd inside
Priscilla has already made a trip to the thrift shop. She liked thrifting because she could almost always find rare, exquisite pieces for a fraction of the cost of what they would cost in a regular store. She would frequently stop by thrift shops in her neighborhood when she was out running errands. Priscilla, a seasoned thrift shopper, had no idea she had stumbled upon something special.
How she found it
Priscilla’s ornament was just sitting on a thrift store shelf, among other blown glass pieces for sale. Priscilla has a thing for glass ornaments, and this one happened to be in her favorite color, blue. Priscilla noticed a price tag attached to the bottom of the decoration as she picked it up, indicating that it would only cost her $2. Priscilla jumped at the chance to own such a lovely ornament for such a low price.
Was it too cheap?
Thrift stores are known for their low prices, but $2 for a blown glass ornament seems like a bargain even in a thrift store. What was the snag, exactly? Priscilla looked at the decoration to see if there was anything wrong with it, but it appeared to be in better shape. It was also heavy, constructed with care and a lot of glass, so it wasn’t porous or delicate.
Taking it home
When Priscilla got home, she unwrapped her new decoration and began to examine it more closely. Priscilla looked at the metalwork again, unsure if the pattern was angels or something else. A backstory is required for this piece. Every previously owned item has a fascinating backstory. Priscilla held the object in her hands and turned it over to look at the blue bottle. It was a beautiful and enthralling item.
Heavier Than She Expected
Priscilla discovered that the ornament was heavier than she had anticipated when she held it in her lap. She wasn’t an ornament expert, but she had worked with many glass ornaments in her time. This decoration appeared to be a little heavier than the others. Priscilla ignored the ornament’s unusual weight for the time being and chose to display her find in her kitchen. She didn’t realize she’d forgotten something important until her daughter arrived.
Priscilla’s baby, Kat, is shown here. Kat had already been a fan of blown glass ornaments, but she was overjoyed when her mother showed her the thrift-store find. Kat was so enthusiastic about blown glass that she fantasized about opening her own shop in Massachusetts. Priscilla didn’t mention the ornament’s unusual weight to Kat, but Kat did notice something strange about it.
What was unique about it?
Kat thought the heart-shaped ornament was cute. She carefully took the decoration off the wall so she could examine it more closely. She, too, observed that it was more powerful than she had anticipated. When she told her mother about her find, she admitted that she, too, thought the ornament was unusually heavy. Kat had an idea. She went in search of a torch to see if the decoration had anything inside it. The sun will soon reveal everything extraordinary.
What Was Inside?
Priscilla thought it would be a great idea to see through the decorations with a torch. When they first shone the torch into the ornament, they didn’t see anything unusual, but they did notice something moving around within it. Priscilla and Kat used the light to reveal two hidden compartments within the ornament. In the smaller room, something was rattling around. Priscilla was eager to see what was on the inside.
Asking for help
Priscilla and Kat agreed that they needed professional help to solve the mystery. Priscilla decided to contact the authorities and have her item examined. It’s possible that whatever was inside was dangerous or immoral. Priscilla has obtained a copy of the Boston Globe and has invited journalists to her home to discuss the elusive two-dollar thrift store ornament. Even if she didn’t realize it, Priscilla had a sneaking suspicion that whatever was inside the ornament would be fascinating.
When the news media arrived at Priscilla’s house, she told them everything she knew. As the reporters sat around her kitchen table, Priscilla said, “It’s currently hanging up there as I do my dishes. I find myself staring at it from time to time.” When Priscilla turned over the ornament to inspect it, the reporters were as intrigued as she was, not knowing what to expect. It was clear right away that this wasn’t just another Christmas tree decoration.
The reporters were then shown how Priscilla and Kat discovered two secret compartments within the glass decoration. As Kat shone a light on the ornament, Priscilla held it up again, revealing the contents inside. Kat told the reporters exactly what she had said. “I told her, ‘It looks like ashes, Mom.'” And even if it was, the question of who they were and how they ended up in a thrift store remains unsolved.
Or just a powder?
It was impossible to deny that the ornament was lovely. And if they were made with ashes inside, that would explain why they were so meticulously crafted. On the other hand, the two ladies had been shaking the decoration, completely unaware that it contained ashes. They asked if they were disrespecting the ashes or even wanted them in her home because they were a relative’s ashes.
What To Do With It
At first, she was perplexed because she had someone else’s ashes in her home and had handled the decoration containing them too many times. That was a bit unsettling. But, as she considered it, she felt sorry for the person whose ashes they were, as well as the family members who might want to keep such a valuable item. When did it happen to end up in a thrift store? Priscilla realized she had to do something.
Returning it to the owner
Priscilla decided to go to any length to find the right person to give the ornament to. She hoped that the mainstream media would help her track down the family who had sent the object to the thrift shop by accident. If she didn’t, she’d have to find another way. She said to the reporters, “It’s stunning. It has to have a backstory. So that’s my goal: to figure out where and who owns this.” She had already contacted the authorities, but she didn’t feel any closer to finding out what was going on.
Priscilla and Kat wanted to keep the glass ornament after the news media had left her Plymouth flat so they could figure out who it belonged to. They hoped that once the news item gained traction, someone would know who to return it to. The women also had another idea: they should share the story on Facebook to see if anyone could help them find out more.
Using Social Media
Kat shared the story of how she and her mother came to own the blue glass ornament, as well as a close-up shot of it. “It breaks my heart that this was thrown away and was just sitting on a shelf at Savers for $2,” she expressed her disappointment. She asked that anyone who knew anything about it contact her so that the mother and daughter could safely return it to her.
Another Special Ornament
Priscilla had already notified the store where she had purchased it, Savers, of her discovery. According to the store’s manager, most of their donations came from locals, so whoever donated the ornament was most likely from the Plymouth area. That’s when Connie Whiteman Slate, a local, replied to Kat’s message, saying, “Just keep me updated on your findings, as I have one as well. I had mine at a thrift store as well! It’s cumbersome.”
Could There Be Two?
Another person commented on the Facebook article, stating that she, too, had one. A woman responded that she had seen a similar ornament in a thrift store in the Pacific Northwest and had purchased it. “Mine was iridescent and heart-shaped like this one, though far less ornamented and more suncatcher-like,” she explained. And she told the woman something they didn’t know about the ornament’s contents before. “It was created from Mt. Saint Helen’s ash,” she said.
“This may also clarify what seems to be ashes enclosed inside… maybe a chance,” said the woman who recognized the source of the ashes inside her ornament. Priscilla and Kat assumed the decoration, which looked like an urn, held a person’s ashes. They hadn’t considered the possibility that the ashes came from somewhere else. The two women did not receive a verified response, but the Facebook post has already gone viral, so there is still hope that the truth will be revealed.