The holiday season is said to be the most wonderful time of the year! We enjoy festivities, traditions, and family gatherings. However, for many, the holiday season can also be a time when feelings of joy crash into waves of sadness. These days may feel especially challenging when dealing with the loss of a loved one. Whether it was a recent loss or some time ago, grief can be intensified during the holiday season.
I find myself walking the trails more often this time of year to help clear my mind, acknowledging my personal feelings, taking in nature, and reflecting on the past, present, and future. Many studies show the positive effects that the outdoors has on mood and emotional well-being. The trails have helped me tremendously with healing and provide a place to meditate and focus on embracing the love and memories shared with loved ones who’ve passed.
This month our reading was The Memory Tree by Britta Teckentrup (Orchard, 2014). This book is filled with compassion, reflection, and resilience following the loss of a loved one. The Memory Tree is about Fox, who took his last breath in the forest. As his friends talk about special moments with Fox, a tree sprouts and begins to grow taller and stronger with every shared story. This beautiful tree becomes a refuge for the animals of the forest, providing shelter, shade, and a place to gather. Nayeli expressed how happy she was that the tree brought all the animals out together, and it led her to share special memories of her baby cousin and grandfather. Nathaniel wasn’t a fan of the book initially, noting that it made him feel hurt and sad. As we read on, though, he agreed that his heart felt better knowing Fox lived on in their hearts. He acknowledged how it’s the same when we talk about joyful memories of our loved ones who have passed away.
This special book inspired us to plant a memory tree at the Victory Gardens neighborhood park. San Marcos City Parks and Recreation Arborist Kelly and Texas State Volunteer Matthew helped guide us successfully to plant a tree that will thrive. We learned about proper practices when planting trees, and the many benefits trees have forthe community and planet.
Also located in the park is a mini library, built and donated by the Rotary Club*, where we gifted our book to share with other children. We hope the newly planted neighborhood memory tree will bring others outside to the park, where they can remember their loved ones, reflect, and watch it grow in love together. We encourage you, too, to plant a memory tree in your garden or community to honor your loved ones.
Wishing you peace through the holiday season.
*The little free library was built by SMGA member and Rotarian Larry Hanson, and installed by members of the San Marcos Rotary Club.
Written by SMGA member Christina Casas-Moreno.
Photos: Nayeli reading The Memory Tree, Christina digging a hole and planting the tree, earthworms in the disturbed soil, Nayeli donating The Memory Tree to the little free library in Victory Park