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"Hello Tree"

October 15, 2018

My oldest daughter, Hannah, was diagnosed with an inoperable, incurable brain tumor just a few months shy of her 20th birthday in June 2014. About nine months after her diagnosis, I registered for a 10k race at the Morton Arboretum. The Arboretum offered a discount membership price for the runners and I took advantage of it. Hannah was an avid photographer and loved nature shots, especially those with lots of color, light and reflection. I remember taking her to the Freeman Maple tree located at Marmo Lake shortly after receiving the membership card in the mail. She had an instant connection to the tree, almost like a kinship. She loved how the branches dipped close to the water, yet she could still see the reflection from the trees across the lake. She loved the gnarly roots growing into the water. Hannah found peace by her tree. We would visit this tree often for about the next year and a half at different times of the day to get different photos. Hannah's photos always captured the beauty of this tree and its surroundings in a way that would cause me to see the world in a different and beautiful way. Our last visit there was about three months before she passed away. She was wheelchair bound and could no longer take pictures, as her tumor had robbed her of the use of her right arm and hand. She just wanted to sit peacefully by her tree. Hannah would always greet her tree with a "Hello Tree" as if the tree was a friend to her. In a way, the tree was a friend to her. When she was having a bad day or got bad news from the doctor, her first reaction was to have me take her to her tree. I could see how this tree lifted her spirits and gave her hope throughout her journey. In January 2017, I placed Hannah in hospice care in our home. A few times Hannah was visited by a student doctor who also worked weekend weddings at the Morton Arboretum. Hannah was no longer able to leave her bed at this point. Hannah told this student about her tree. The following week the student came back to see Hannah with a picture of the tree. She had made a visit there just for Hannah. Hannah lit up as this student showed her the photo on her phone and she was moved to tears by her kindness. After Hannah passed away in March 2017, many loving family and friends donated enough money to have a tree dedicated to Hannah. This tree is located close to the water and near her beloved tree at Marmo Lake. Hannah's three younger sisters, her dad and myself often sit under her Freeman Maple and feel we are there with her in spirit and find comfort. I often feel the need to greet Hannah's tree with a "Hello Tree" when I arrive in honor of her. Our family is forever grateful for this happy memory with the Freeman Maple.

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