With the recent addition of six memorial trees, the beginnings of a forest is growing at Hospice House.
"We call it our Forest of Angels," said site coordinator Kathleen Cavness-Hughes.
Tiny white lights twinkle from dusk until dawn on the branches of the spruce and Scotch pine trees as a "gentle remembrance of our loved ones," hospice pastor Lynn Richie told the families gathered for the lighting ceremony Tuesday evening.
As the wind blows through the trees, he hopes the experience will bring comfort to those walking or seated nearby.
"No one seems to recall who originated the idea for the forest," said medical director Michael Lowe, M.D. The origins might have come after the death of a hospice staff person.
Nurse Trina Carroll joined the staff of RTA Hospice and Palliative Care last October. "When she died suddenly of a heart attack a month later, the staff had trouble dealing with it," Cavness-Hughes said. "So, as an impromptu project, we planted a Scotch pine in Trina's memory."
Around Christmastime, little ornaments started appearing on the branches of the tree and the idea to add memorial trees to the facility's grounds was born.
Since then, five more trees have been added to the forest.
"We are excited about this memorial to our loved ones," Bonnie Stone said. The tree planted for her husband, Lawrence, sits outside the window of the room where he stayed at Hospice House.
"The staff was so wonderful to my father-in-law, Stanley Goebel, we made the decision to get a tree," Liz Goebel said.
Diane Wolfe said her mother, Florence Flynn, was a gardener and would have appreciated the trees.
"Wild and woolly" is inscribed on the plaque that hangs on a tree dedicated to Betty Kirby.
"Betty Kirby was a character," social worker Lois Atkin said. Kirby made her living as a truck driver. She was 83 when she passed away.
A tree was also planted for Zeke, a 13-year-old golden Labrador dog, that belonged to Dr. David Glow.
Zeke was one of three pet dogs Glow has brought to hospice to cheer patients.
"Our intention is to be able to add, as they are requested, more memorial trees to the green space bordering Mud Springs Road," Cavness-Hughes said.