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The Tree's Story

April 19, 2018

I have always loved and honored trees for their beauty strength and resilience. Long before I became an Openlands TreeKeeper I was a tree-hugger. I sensed trees' great importance and the impact they have on our health and that of our planet. They talked to me, to my heart and spirit!

This story I am writing is one of great sadness, but also of great joy, of hope and starting over, of picking oneself up to stand tall again, just like a tree.

My favorite tree would be the blue spruce I planted for my son Joe. I chose an evergreen as a symbol of eternal life. I planted it on the parkway, very close to where my son's body was found lying on a driveway after being being beaten, robbed, and shot to death.

My son was stolen from me in November of 1993, on Thanksgiving weekend. He was 19, just starting his life. It was devastating. I thought I would never survive. Earlier in my life, I had lost my son's father, when he too was murdered.

My son was three years old. I had to go on to take care of him. But when my son was murdered, it was so much harder! I didn't think I'd make it, I was so overwhelmed by grief. Little did I know the blessings that would come to me several years later.

At the time I didn't want to survive. I wanted to die. Now, I am so glad I didn't. As I healed, and grew stronger, I wanted to make a statement, to show I was stronger than the grief that had overwhelmed my spirit for several years. I was stronger than the cowards who took my son from me, and so many others. I chose to plant a tree to make that statement. I wanted the place of his senseless, violent death, to be one of beauty and peace, a place of quiet courage and forgiveness.

The tree was given to me by the owners of a business where I bought my plants for my garden. It was only three feet tall, just a little guy. It was so kind of them. I didn't know planting this little tree would have such a huge impact on the community.

I didn't know how this one tree would have such an affect on so many people--the community, family and friends! So many have told me how they stopped by "The Tree" (as it come to be known), some to contemplate, some to pray. One business next door to the driveway helped keep The Tree watered and garbage picked up. Another business owner nearby told me they would never cut "the Tree" down but would help protect it.

People told me how good The Tree made them feel. I was so pleasantly surprised to learn how one tree could make such a difference in so many people's lives and hearts. So many who never had even known my son! They came to know him and his story through The Tree.

That little tree grew to be 15 feet tall, so full and green. I loved visiting The Tree late at night, alone, to watch it sparkle in the winter snows, to sit in silence, speaking with my son, who had died there alone.

I became Openlands TreeKeeper #1052 in 2011. By then I had been given a wonderful gift, my second son, Taz. He is now a young man and gifted musician, a wonderful loving person, a great guy and a great friend. I am so blessed! I am so glad I am here!

I wanted so to give back and share my love of trees. To share my joy! To demonstrate my love of nature and for other human beings! To share my belief in hope and love! To celebrate, every day, everything given to me!! To celebrate this new Tree-mendous life for me! I found the TreeKeepers and they helped me find myself again!! Hug a tree today!

Pine tree on city street at night surrounded by snow

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