That one hurt the most. The tree planted over 20 years ago near my dad’s grave. The one on which I tie a ribbon to match the season. The one my brother cares for. The one planted after the city cut down the row of trees lining the edge of Violet Hill Cemetery. Mom upset the first time she visited and experienced the bareness — the trees being the reason that location was chosen.
The trees at Violet Hill were a link to the trees my parents planted every year on their farm. Trees my mom carried buckets of water to.
There was dad’s modification of the water buckets — holes drilled into the buckets so they could be set near a tree and let the water trickle into the ground.
There was the weeping willow tree with a short life span. Mom got a bit too close with the riding mower and snapped it over. Oddly enough, jumping off the mower and standing it back up did not make the tree meld together.
The oaks, maples, red buds and more. Family trips to Earl May followed by planting the trees as a family. Always room in the yard for more trees.
Tree selection and tree planting was a known ritual like walking beans, a day at Riverview Park — the Adventureland of its day — and the Iowa State Fair.
These rituals were family time, but there are rituals of another purpose. Rituals I found comforting at a time of death — buying my dad trees. Trees in memory planted in a National Park with a need. Trees on his birthday, Father’s Day and other significant dates.
The ritual. The memories. His love of trees.
Many trees were planted by my parents on their farm or have been planted in parks across the United States both in their memory and the memory of others.
And yet, that tree. Somehow it was as if they left me a bit all over again.
It made me even sadder for every tree we’ve lost in Perry and across Iowa. Each of them with multiple stories, memories, connections to us.
The ritual and the memories remain. New trees will be planted and grow in memory of my parents. New trees planted for your specific memories. New trees planted to make more memories and connections.