This weekend I watched love-in-action, as dozens of creative grief professionals from all over the country traveled to Parkland, FL to bring hope and healing to a shattered community. I was honored to have been asked to participate, and decided to create a Commemorative Tree of Life which allows individual leaves of remembrance to be combined into a permanent memorial for the community. I started by looking through all of my tree drawings (and there are a LOT of them!), to find one I thought could work, and then redrew it with 17 branches, one for each of the victims. Once the drawing was finished, it was converted to a vector/scaleable file, and cut out of MDF board. Here are a few visuals of the process:
Getting to see the tree all cut out was really exciting!
The second major part of the project was painting: I had to paint the sun, which will be placed behind the tree as a backdrop for the leaves, as well as the tree itself. Deco Art, one of our awesome sponsors, sent a variety of paint, and I decided to apply it with a roller, because the sun is so big that I couldn’t reach the center. Here are a few photos of the painting process:
I was able to get a nice gradual color change by painting the top end yellow, the bottom end orange, and blending them together in the middle.
Once the sun was painted, it was time to think about the leaves. Spellbinders donated leaf dies and a die-cutting machine, and my friends Gladys & Linda loving created several hundred leaves. Some were blank for people who wanted to decorate their own, and I made some with watercolor sentiments like “Love is Eternal”, “Forever in Our Hearts”, and “Remembered with Love”, for those who just wanted to write the name.
Getting the tree and sun into my car so I could take them to South Florida was challenging, but ultimately we managed to make everything fit. Before leaving for Parkland I made a sign to thank the generous sponsors and supporters:
It took a while to get the tree and sun set up at the hotel, but some of the other ‘Grief Resource Professionals’ volunteered to help, so we were thankfully able to get everything set up before the doors opened to the public. The photo on the left was taken just before the event began, the one in the middle was taken around noon, and the one on the right was taken towards the end of the day.
I got to meet with several students, as well as parents whose teens attend the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, and tried to help each of them create a meaningful message on their leaf. I was fortunate the my friend Sheila Friedman, who recently moved to the area, was able to come help me get everything set up. Both Sheila and I agreed that one of the highlights of the day was meeting Grace, the young woman in the center of the photo below.
Grace is a student at MSD High School, and made a leaf in memory of her friend Alaina, who was one of the 17 victims. I was so touched by our conversation, that I got out my iPad Pro and made Grace a name sign:
The tree isn’t quite done– I’m still working on the 17 copper leaves which will attach to the ends of the branches, and waiting for the rest of the memorial leaves to be finished. I’ll share photos of the finished project once it’s installed.