Columbia, SC (WLTX) -- The mother of 42-year-old Tao Gao is working to keep his memory alive.
Gao died last year after investigators say he drowned in a pond in Irmo. Officials ruled his death as accidental.
Now, a new addition could be coming to a Columbia city park, in honor of him.
"He loved Shandon. He loved this country. He loved this community. He loved people," said his mother, Dr. Ling Gao.
Not a day goes by that Dr. Gao doesn't think of her son.
"He told me three weeks before he passed, he said, 'Mom, before I meditate, this is the mantra I say: I am the joy of forgiveness. I am the freedom of love'."
Tao Gao came to the U.S. from China in the early 90's and settled in Columbia with his family.
He graduated from Dreher High School, went to USC, joined the NAVY, and worked at the State Library before starting a web development company with a friend. Tao also worked for the State Library as an Information Consultant.
Part of his daily routine took place at Emily Douglas Park.
"It's the place he grew up, he loved," said Dr. Gao. "He had happy times here."
Tao would spend a few minutes at the park meditating nearly every day.
"The purpose of this idea is to educate and to beautify in memory of my son," said Dr. Gao. "We know the benefit of meditation. Also, when you meditate, you are in a nice environment. That's why we say, 'To educate and to beautify'."
To celebrate Tao's life, Dr. Gao is working with the city's Parks and Recreation officials and Councilman Moe Baddourah to create a meditation garden at Emily Douglas Park.
"We have a gazebo, a fountain and some beautiful Perennials, and trees like a Japanese Maple or clumping bamboo just to make it beautiful for people to sit there, feel peaceful and relaxed to do meditation," said Dr. Gao.
The garden would sit on an empty section of the park, open to anyone who needs a moment to sit and reflect.
"He will be happy seeing all of this happen," said Dr. Gao. "It will also be a big comfort to my heart because I miss my only child every day, so much. I will be happy, and I think his spirit and soul will be happy up there in Heaven."
Dr. Gao says funding from the Tao Gao Children and Family Memorial Fund will be donated to build the park. She says the funding is mostly from her personal savings and from selling her son's house.
If the garden is approved, Dr. Gao says she's ready to sign the check. She explained that city workers will help maintain the park since it will be for public use.
The President of the Shandon Neighborhood Council tells News 19 the idea for a meditation garden in Douglas Park has been in the works since March.
At their meeting last week, they asked Columbia Parks and Rec officials to rework a few architectural elements in the plan.
The matter must go for a vote before it's approved. Shandon Neighborhood Council's next meeting is in September.