A nickel. A feather. A pinwheel. Little red candies rest upon a white cross bearing the name of Janet Steinbach's son, Adam, stabbed to death on May 31, 2011 at age 29. Where his body was found now blooms a bed of colorful flowers tended by a grieving mother and watched over by the homeless, who have made it a place to grieve for their own losses, too.
As Janet attends to this oasis on Del Paso Boulevard by the bike trail, she feels her son's presence. Every hug and kind word from a passer-by soothes her. She says she is growing by leaps and bounds, becoming more like Adam, who was non-judgmental and had a smile for everyone. Grateful for the outpouring of support she receives at the memorial, she now volunteers at Sacramento Self-Help Housing at Loaves and Fishes. "I feel like he's teaching me to be a better person," she says.
Bruce Gibson, shown above, a homeless man who has been in the area since Adam was killed, said that the homeless respect the site and look out for it. He checks in on Janet, helps her water the flowers and offers his encouragement. "Take one day at a time, that's all you can do," he said giving her a handshake before going on his way. "I credit his strong spirit for bringing into my life a community of people I never knew before," Janet says. "They say the kindest most sensitive things."
A few months after Adam died the white cross that is the cornerstone of Adam's memorial was stolen. Members of the homeless community vowed that they would help find it and checked in on Janet consistently as she continued to nurture her garden. About a month later it appeared once again in its usual spot. No one ever claimed the glory for its return. It just silently reappeared leaving Janet feeling grateful and blessed. "It has become my personal journey to give back," she said.
It all started with a white cross and raw grief on the side of a dusty road. "I didn't want it to be an ugly place," Janet said. "I'm going to change the energy. I'm going to put beauty here." Now this place has blossomed into a testament to human caring and how hearts can transform through love.
Two men are in Sacramento County Jail awaiting trial in Sacramento Superior Court in the Adam Steinbach case.
Dawayne Lawrence, 35, and Frank Haney, 54, are both charged with murder, burglary and robbery. Lawrence also is charged with vehicle theft, arson and assault with a deadly weapon. According to Superior Court online records, their next court date is a preliminary hearing on Aug. 29.
If you know someone who gives of themselves despite the hardship they may endure please nominate them for the I Care column by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Cathy Locke contributed to this report.