Trees link to loved ones

Calgary Sun - - NEWS - ANNA JUNKER

The laugh­ter of chil­dren filled the air Satur­day as fam­i­lies and friends ex­plored the newly planted spruce and po­plar trees, ded­i­cated to loved ones who have died, at the McIn­nis and Hol­loway Memorial For­est.

This is the fifth year McIn­nis and Hol­loway has planted trees in the Burns­mead area of Fish Creek Pro­vin­cial Park as a part of a re­for­esta­tion project near the west bank of the Bow River.

The for­est is meant to be nat­u­ral, where people can visit and en­joy the area while know­ing that each tree has been planted in mem­ory of a loved one.

For Zan Smith, vis­it­ing the for­est is a lit­tle bit sur­real. Next week will mark ex­actly one year since her mother, Rita Maccagno-Smith, passed away from colon cancer.

Smith’s mother was some­one she could lean on, es­pe­cially when Smith left her kids’ fa­ther when her son, Levi, was only 15 months old.

“Six weeks later we found out my mom (had) Stage 4 colon cancer and then I had a bunch of ap­point­ments that I needed to go to be­cause I was preg­nant,” said Smith.

“She was able to watch (my son) un­til she went through her first surgery, so Levi and my mom had a su­per good bond. My daugh­ter just knew my mom in a bed. He re­mem­bers her, there’s a con­nec­tion there.”

From Maccagno-Smith’s cancer di­ag­no­sis to her death, only two-and-a-half years had passed.

“We talk about her when­ever (Levi) asks ques­tions, that’s re­ally all you can do right?” said Smith.

“Life has taught you that, I guess, it’s a part of it, but I wasn’t ex­pect­ing it to hap­pen so soon.”

Smith ap­pre­ci­ates hav­ing the memorial for­est as a phys­i­cal place where she can come visit to re­mem­ber her mother.

As many as 10,000 people were ex­pected to visit Fish Creek park for the 21st an­nual memorial for­est tree ded­i­ca­tion over the week­end.

Up­wards of 2,700 trees were planted in the Burns­mead area of the park, at the bot­tom of Bow Bot­tom Trail near the com­mu­nity of Deer Run.

The trees are in hon­our of those who’ve died over the last year.

McIn­nis and Hol­loway has planted trees specif­i­cally for the Burns­mead wet­land con­ser­va­tion since 2013.

A per­ma­nent plaque is also set up in the park which dis­plays the names of each per­son who has passed.

Ernie Hagel, pres­i­dent of McIn­nis and Hol­loway, said they first be­gan the project as a way to give back to the com­mu­nity after see­ing places in eastern Canada do­ing sim­i­lar memo­ri­als.

“We have people come and visit the tree ev­ery week be­cause that’s their way — in­stead of com­ing to a ceme­tery, they come over here,” said Hagel. “They’ll come and be hav­ing a pic­nic in the park, they’ll be out there in the trees. It’s been a very, very pos­i­tive pro­gram and a great way for us to par­tic­i­pate in the com­mu­nity.”

The project was made pos­si­ble through the part­ner­ship of McIn­nis and Hol­loway Funeral Homes and the Prov­ince of Al­berta.

We have people come and visit … ev­ery week be­cause that’s their way.” ernie Hagel, pres­i­dent of mcIn­nis and Hol­loway

DAR­REN mAKoWichUK/Post­mediA

Zan Smith with kids Zoey, 3, and Levi Prouse, 4, pick out a tree for her mom dur­ing the McIn­nis and Hol­loway Funeral Home’s 21st An­nual Memorial For­est Week­end.

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