Christmas Tree Remembers Suicide Victims
Nichole Henrich,, Friday, November 30, 2001

Debbie Ruttencutter's Christmas tree sits in her front yard. On first glance, it looks like any other, decorated with lights and white ornaments, but this is no ordinary tree.
On closer inspection, you'll find the ornaments are all the same; laminated hearts with names written on them, along with an age and words like "son", "niece", "sister". Dozens of ornaments, dozens of suicide victims.
"When you lose someone to suicide, a lot of people want to forget that person because they don't know what to say," says Ruttencutter. "The names of the people on this tree are our loved ones. We will never forget them"
The Fredericksburg-area has been rocked by a number of suicides this year, some of them in public settings.
Debbie lost her 15-year-old son, Josh, to suicide five years ago. He left no note, but plenty of questions. Debbie finds answers in helping others.
"Since he's been gone, I have done anything regarding suicide prevention, talked to other parents who've walked down the same road, talked to many teens. It's opened up a whole new area I was foreign to before."
She calls her tree "The Memory Tree of Lights" and it represents victims from Tennessee and Ohio, where Josh was born. The first tree was started three years ago in Colorado by a woman who lost her only child to suicide. This year there are trees across the nation.
"The tree has names of various children, moms, daughters, spouses," says Debbie. They represent the relatives of suicide victims who've want their loved one added to the tree. "It's very emotional getting the e-mails I've getting," she admits.
She says the tree doesn't honor the act of suicide, just the memory of people others often omit from conversation.
"Talk about them," says Debbie. "Share funny stories, share anything, because it's not going to hurt me, I'm already hurt."
But the the healing has started and gets better with each ornament on the tree.
Debbie Ruttencutter also has a website in honor of Josh. You can find it at
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