Saturday, March 12, 2016 | By: Lisa LaMendola

Memories Are Like Trees...

When my father bought his last home he was mesmerized by the number of trees on the land.  He knew the house could be fixed, but the land called to him and he knew instantly this was going to be his home.  Even though he had plenty of trees on his property, he continued to plant more. Every few months he received a package in the mail with 10 or more tree saplings to plant.  He would start in a container and if the tree prospered he would replant it somewhere special on his land.

One day I was helping him plant the saplings and asked him where they had come from.  He explained that they were sent to him by a place called the Arbor Day Foundation.  A 260 acre national landmark in Nebraska where trees are continually planted in an effort to learn more about them, grow them better, and create a lasting conservation.  When I asked him how he found them, he decided it he needed a coffee break to tell me.

So off we went to the back porch, him with his coffee and me with my cold water to hear the story of the trees and my father’s connection to them.

Around the time you started High School your mother began donating to them every year so they could plant more trees in one of several national forests.  After she died the letter came in the mail requesting the next year's donation so I sent it in, but I forgot to check the box as to where I wanted the saplings to go.  So when they arrived I planted them in a few planters to see how they would take.  I didn’t do great.  In fact 9 out of the 10 that I planted died, but one lived.  I think that one was helped by your mother so that I would keep donating to them.”

I suddenly remembered a time a few years back when my father was deciding who to donate to in his mother’s memory.  He decided on the Arbor Day Foundation.  My grandmother died the year after my mother and left us with a nice inheritance and when he mentioned in passing what he was going to do I asked him if I could contribute along with him.  I gave him my check and he put it with his, never realizing what a significant impact it could have.

Several months after my father died a piece of mail came to my home addressed to him.  It was from the Arbor Day Foundation. I opened it up and read the letter.  The letter was written to his family, addressing his passing that "we just heard about".  My father was considered a 'great benefactor' of the organization and they thanked him for his past donations.  This wasn't an advertisement for more money, but a nice handwritten letter from a man named Ray.  That is when I decided to honor my parents by keeping up the tradition of donating every year.  Once on my mother’s birthday and again on my father's birthday. 15 trees are planted in the Tahoe National Forest and another 15 in the Chippewa National Forest, knowing that their love of the land and trees will live on forever.

While I do this every year, I do not really think about the organization, but the trees and how they are helping our world in some small way.  So imagine my surprise today walking through my new hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan, to see a flag hanging next to a national flag that says “Tree City USA”, a proud member of the Arbor Day Foundation community forestry program.

My heart skipped a beat and a tear fell from my eye.  I looked down to see my trusty sidekick Sammy looking up at the flag too, like he knew a piece of my mom and dad were here with us.

And so the journey continues until I am no longer here.  Helping this world of ours breath a little more air, grow a few more trees, and forge a better life, all because of an amazing decision my mother made 40 years ago.

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