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‘A way to honor them’: Memorial Tree Lane takes root at Greystone

Christina Jarvis, with the Native Roots staff, plants a memorial in honor of Jan McVicker’s mother.

A tree can be a symbol of a person’s lifetime and Greystone Nature Preserve believes that an individual’s legacy should not end after they have passed.

Losing loved ones during these harsh times makes it especially hard to honor the transition and give them the goodbye they deserve. Funerals have to be shortened and restricted to a few people; memorial services cannot be gatherings of hugs and shoulders to cry on. COVID-19 has taken away the true point of a memorial and has replaced it with worry.

During these intricate times, it’s beneficial to know there are more opportunities to honor a loved one after they’ve passed. Greystone Nature Preserve, a 75-acre nonprofit experiential environmental education facility in Fredonia, is opening up its land to offer community members a chance to plant trees in a new Memorial Tree Lane. Founders Diane Clark and Bill Moran want to help people cope with grief and to honor loved ones in a way that gives back to the earth.

Memorial Tree Lane sits on top of one of the hills at Greystone, with a breathtaking, panoramic view of Lake Erie in the distance. The idea of this lane began a couple years ago when a friend of Greystone, SUNY Fredonia College Professor, Christina Jarvis, lost her mother. Her mother was a participant in the first Earth Day and lifelong environmental advocate, and Jarvis wanted to honor her mother in a natural way.

In May 2019, Jarvis gathered with family and friends to plant a Tulip tree and celebrate her mother’s educational, environmental, social justice and other legacies. Although the personally significant memorial tree planting was a new event for Jarvis, she has a decade-long relationship with Greystone Nature Preserve.

Since 2010, she has been working with her Environmental Literature students at SUNY Fredonia to plant trees and to honor authors that sprout the beauty of nature within their writings. A literary grove honoring more than 15 major American environmental writers borders Memorial Tree Lane.

This past May, Christina sparked the interest of her friend, Jeanette McVicker, to honor her mother who passed away on Earth Day of this year.

“The impetus to plant a tree to honor mom, especially after my conversations with Christina, was already there.” McVicker said. “I decided to plant a pair of trees to include my dad, since it’s been a long time and I wanted to find a way to honor them together.”

McVicker decided to plant a native White Oak tree for her mother, and also planted a Red Oak to honor her father who passed away 10 years ago. “I decided to plant a pair of trees to include my dad, since it’s been a long time and I wanted to find a way to honor them together.”

McVicker, is an English Professor at SUNY Fredonia, and teaches posthumanism in several of her classes. Posthumanism suggests that humans should understand that they are a part of the ecosystem, rather than at the top of the chain. An environmental application of posthumanism suggests that once we die, our bodies get buried or scattered within the earth, and we are put into the ecosystem to help growth occur again.

Greystone Nature Preserve exemplifies this idea of posthumanism through the planting of Memorial Trees. With the help from Ron Cook and the staff of Native Roots, 9- to 11-foot native trees will be planted as memorials. The trees will be nurtured, and the colors will shine throughout the seasons.

For more information, go to www.greystone.com or call 716-679-6603.

Hope Winter is Greystone Nature Perserve’s Communication Intern and SUNY Fredonia Communication Journalism Major, Class of 2021.

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