Trees link to loved ones
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
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.