How do you find the perfect tree to honor a young, beautiful life taken too soon? The answer is: the tree finds you!
Nestled a quarter mile along the Woodland Trail from the Big Rock Visitor Station parking lot sits a healthy and majestic sugar maple tree in honor of Ashley Lauren.
We lost Ashley in August 2017, but her spirit remains alive through this tree that was dedicated on what would have been her 22nd birthday in May 2018.
On a bright and sunny day that matched Ashley's vibrant personality, family and friends gathered near the tree to share stories and memories from her young life.
The dedication concluded with everyone "hugging" the unique 4-stump tree - symbolizing the four members of her family - and singing Happy Birthday to Ashley through tears and smiles.
Ashley's Mom had become an Arboretum member shortly after losing her own Mother to cancer only a few years earlier. She turned to the Arb as a place of peace to be in nature and feel close to her mother who was an avid gardener. She spent hours running the main paths, hiking the trails and exploring the beauty of every season, never anticipating she would suffer another great loss and love in her life.
When the tragic news of Ashley struck their family, it was without hesitation that donations in lieu of flowers should be made to the Arb, a place I affectionately call their "happy place."
In the weeks that followed, our community of running friends united to raise funds to sponsor both a bench and a tree that the family can visit every day.
After countless hours and miles of hiking, Ashley's Mom says she still can't quite remember how she chose this tree that so elegantly reminds visitors: Be strong. Be silly. Be proud. Be kind. Be happy. Life is short. BE in every moment.
But in the vast expanse of 1700 acres, there's only one conclusion: Ashley made sure the tree found US!