More than 300 loved ones were remembered Friday as part of the 100 Mile District Hospice Palliative Care Society’s annual Memory Tree celebration.
Hospice executive director Tracy Haddow said while there were tears at the event, there was also peaceful calm. The Memory Tree, part of the community for the past 31 years, allows people to register a loved one’s name. As the name is read out, a loved one can choose a bulb in their honour and place it on the tree to remember them.
“When people are open, honest and real it works,” Haddow said. “It’s people touching other people’s lives. The one thing everyone has is that we’ve all experienced loss of some sort. We’ve all experienced being down and it’s a way we can touch and connect with each other in a very human way.”
She credited volunteers and community members like Wilfred Kelly Gordon De La Mere who have made the event a lasting tradition in the community.
De La Mere, 70, has been part of the event from the beginning, supplying the first three trees for the celebration. He said they used to mount the Memory Tree on top of the old provincial building so everyone could see it.
Back then, only 15 people attended the ceremony, compared with 100 who usually come today. This year’s event was held at the 100 Mile Community Hall.
“I have many family members that I’ve lost and friends as well. I’ve known so many people that aren’t here anymore except in my memories,” De La Mere said. “The Memory Tree is part of bringing those memories back to life. Maybe they haven’t been thought of in a while but they start to brighten up the more you think of them.”
The Memory Tree has kept many of his fondest memories alive, he added. Despite being in a wheelchair with persistent health issues, he doesn’t intend to miss a ceremony. Every year for the past three decades, except two times when health issues prevented him from attending, De La Mere has read his poem The Memory Tree at the ceremony:
We’ve all gathered here at this spot tonight,
Bringing along special memory with each bulb that we light.
So to those of you, in body not here,
Be rest assured, your memory is dear.
Friend, brother, sister, husband, relation or wife,
Yes, this ceremony is for you, you’re still part of our life.
You’re sadly missed but never forgotten.
And may those memories stay bright, like these bulbs, and shall they never dim.
“It’s for everybody because, while we’re all different, we are all the same,” he said. “We share our grief and dismiss it to a degree, but we’re not alone in our grief. Obviously, a lot of people have got the right feeling from that poem.”