Memory Tree of Lights History

In Christmas of 1998 I was greatly inspired to create and promote Colorado’s first “Memory Tree of Lights.” It was launched and people from support groups located throughout the country participated and expressed how greatly comforted they were from this outreach. I knew from that point on that my family, and many other families, had started a new tradition. We have now taken this to a national level where State Tree Coordinators are reaching out to survivors in every state with comfort, unity, hope and resource material.

Gazette Article
The first public article written by local Gazette newspaper was beautifully written by Mr. Scott Smith titled Tree Honors the Victims of Suicide.

Letting Go
2001 was not far off and I was already receiving holiday inquiries about Colorado’s special tree. After reminiscing about how successful it had previously been to provide holiday comfort and hope to survivors, suicide awareness and intervention, I thought how wonderful it would be for the spirit of the tree to be re-located to a more public location so more people who struggle through Christmas holidays could better access the tree.
My ego did not need the notoriety of continued TV attention, nor annual newspaper articles or other publicity. It was necessary for me to remain focused on the Vision Statement and acknowledge that by “letting go” more people would be blessed from this ministry.
I called our local Suicide Prevention Partnership and shared my heart with Tom Agnew, Director. He never hesitated to express his desire to jump in and help with relocating and coordinating the Colorado Tree. We shared our stories (he lost his talented and handsome son to suicide), shed some tears, and when I gently placed the telephone back into its cradle—I beamed. My heart was overwhelmed with joy and hope thinking about how so many more people will be comforted during the 2001 Christmas holidays.

Bigger and Better
I felt a bittersweet sense of relief knowing that Colorado’s Memory Tree would be in Tom’s good hands, but I felt a sense of grieving over the loss of blessings I used to receive from the Memory Tree being located in my front yard. It was heartwarming to read messages from visitors who would jot their feelings down on notes or cards and tuck them into my front door. There were many times I would rise in the middle of the night to kneel by the window so I could look at the Memory Tree of Lights only to see people seated on the donated park bench next to the Memory Tree. The tree’s hundreds of colorful mini-lights would gently reflect a warm glow upon their faces and I would find myself tearing up and praying for them. I did not need to know their names. Knowing we shared a common pain was sadly sufficient enough.
A few times, when people visited the tree that I felt compelled to go out and be available to them in case they needed to share. I will always be haunted by the image of one lean, tall man in his 30’s. One evening I walked into my kitchen and looked out my window into the front yard where the tree was located, I saw this young man briskly walking from the tree toward his truck. He could not wipe his eyes enough to stop the gushing flow of tears streaming down his face. How I wish I had caught him sooner so I could have just “been there” for him. I still think about this man and pray for his peace—he was alone. Was he crying because his wife committed suicide? A parent? Sibling? Child? I wish I knew. I wish I were there for him. . .at least he had the Memory Tree and learned that he was not alone in his painful walk.

Spreading the Word
My mind was flooded with new thoughts. No sooner had I pushed them away they would come back. . .unrelenting and persistent they were. If the “Memory Tree of Lights” was so successful in Colorado, why not spread this Christmas season ministry throughout the country and let it bring blessings to thousands? The idea of locating State Tree Coordinators (STC’s) for each state in the nation was overwhelming. So I set a goal to sweep the nation and would be grateful if even having just enough STC’s to represent five states. They would still bless thousands. That is still a win in my book!
I emailed on-line support groups located at one of my favorite websites Responses from people who had such compassionate and servant hearts was overwhelming. Thus cropped up a wonderful team of State Tree Coordinators who have already shared their blessings with me about their first time experiences as ambassadors of the heart.
I will miss the joy, comfort, peace, and humility that I received from working so closely with the Memory Tree when it was located in my front yard, but I am sure God will bless this ministry through each State Tree Coordinator and comfort the many survivors and visitors. Once the heartwarming stories grapevine back to the gateway of my heart, I . . . once again . . .will be blessed—and maybe blessed greater still.
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