Twenty-five trees dedicated to children whose own 'circles of life' were few

Journal Pioneer staff
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Annual ceremony at Internation Children's Memorial Place draws 200 family, friends, and supporters

SOUTH FREETOWN – Twenty-five trees were recently dedicated to deceased children, in the Ever Living Forest at the International Children’s Memorial Place, on the banks of the newly rejuvenated Scales Pond.

Tom Reid, forground left, speaks with ICMP founder Bill MacLean, beside the sugar maple dedicated to daughter Rachel Reid, while Myra MacLean, background, assists Angela Reid with mulching the sugar maple dedicated to son Cpl. Chris Reid, during the annual ceremony in the Ever Living Forest.

Approximately 200 people attended the annual dedication ceremony, a moving tribute to love, hope and remembrance for children whose life cycles were uncommonly brief, as described by ICMP board member Maitland MacIsaac who lost a child 20 years ago.

“Like a tree, each of us grows their own circles of life. If measured by years, some people grow many circles, others just a few,” MacIsaac compared, before describing the “often insurmountable challenge” parents face in accepting that their anticipated assistance in developing the circles of a long life in their child will not be fulfilled.

“A person’s circles, no matter how many they have grown, are complete,” MacIsaac acknowledged, but recognized also that parents cannot and must not distance themselves from their children who have died.

“We know they are not physically alive; we visit their gravesites. But for us they are alive within us,” he explained.

Though the five senses no longer serve to connect, the ICMP and its Ever Living Forest exist to provide a semblance of alternative. MacIsaac described it as “nature’s hospital, a place where people can come to reflect and let nature heal as the spirit of their loved one embraces them.”

Malpeque MP Wayne Easter summed up the atmosphere surrounding the event and the concept, reading a piece entitled “The Ever Living Forest” during his remarks of welcome.

“The young trees in the Ever Living Forest will grow and over time become old. Such is not the case for the Forest’s children,” he read.

“Walk softly in this place, for each tree was planted with a love that is profound. Listen closely in this place, for the children are whispering: ‘I’m with you now, I’ll see you, bye and bye,’” the writing concluded.

Local MLA George Webster, minister of Agriculture and Forestry, acknowledged the value of federal and provincial input that helped restore Scales Pond, after a dam breach allowed it to drain in 2009, and its influence on the site.

He deemed it a unique place of healing, one in which to find peace, with the sounds of water creating a tranquil atmosphere.

The Ever Living Forest has been developed over the past 11 years. Originally, trees were planted around the time of the ceremony, according to ICMP founder Bill MacLean, but in recent years the trees have been pre-planted to ensure or increase survivability. Cadet and Boy Scout groups prepared each chosen tree with mulch for the ceremony, a contribution which also helps keep youth involved with the site, MacLean explained. The trees to be dedicated were supplied by the Department of Agriculture and Forestry, and represent a variety of native Island species.

It’s a place for Jasper to come; they can grow up together Ryan Murphy - Parent dedicating a tree for a lost son, at the Ever Living Forest of the ICMP

After a prayer and the address by MacIsaac to parents, local MLA Wes Sheridan presented staked plaques to the dedicating families, each identifying information about the child whose spirit would continue to grow with the rings of their tree. The families then made their way onto the forest grounds for their personal attentions.

Among the families, Ryan Murphy and Emily Jelliffe Murphy, with their son, Jasper, prepared a maple to receive the essence of 16-month-old Seymour A.J. Murphy, who succumbed to a genetic condition last December.

Friends had informed them about ICMP, and the decision to dedicate a tree to Seymour was immediate, as it was a place to come to celebrate his young life.

“It’s a place for Jasper to come; they can grow up together,” Ryan expressed for their elder son.

The extended family also engaged the atmosphere of the forest and the dedication.

“It’s too special for me to detail,” excused Seymour’s grandfather, Wayne Morrison.

Angela and Tom Reid dedicated trees for their son, Cpl. Christopher Jonathan Reid, CD, MID, 34, who was lost to conflict in Afghanistan in 2006, and daughter, Rachel Reid, 28, who was victim to an unidentified heart condition, termed a lethal arrhythmia, in 2002.

The Reids knew of the ICMP and the Ever Living Forest, but just weren’t previously ready for the dedication, for which they chose sugar maples planted mere metres from one another.

Because of the circumstances of their son’s loss in military conflict, he had a number of memorial services and remembrances, but their daughter had only the family service.

“That’s why this is so special,” Angela explained of the dual dedication and its extended significance.

She described her daughter as a quiet, loving person, and her son as an adventurer.

Wherever they are, “Chris is driving his LAV (Light Armoured Vehicle), Rachel is in the back, and he’s trying to scare her,” Angela imagined.

As was envisaged when the forest was inaugurated, the families expect to return time and again to maintain their connections.

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