The Pyramids of Giza and The Lincoln Memorial serve a singular purpose despite being on opposite sides of the planet—they were built to provide a physical representation of deeply loved people who had passed on. These highly public monuments speak to a universal human desire: the desire to remember.
Every culture has developed its own methods of memorialization, underscoring the assertion a remembrance in the physical world helps humans process the grief of loss. There’s not necessarily an ironclad logic to it, but memorials help people heal the wounds that loss leaves.
While headstones are far and away, the most common type of memorial, they’re certainly not the only option, and they aren’t always the most appropriate choice, either. Whether it’s an effort to show respect, quell the pain of grief, or simply ensure that someone or something will not soon be forgotten, planting a tree as a memorial is a powerful celebration of and memorial to life.
The Importance of A Physical Memory
Memorials aren’t created because of fear that an event or a person will be forgotten without them; instead, they serve as a physical reminder of that event or person, which gives survivors the ability to process their feelings with a physically immersive remembrance.
Though it’s true that memorials are commonly put in place as a means of remembering a human being’s life (and this is one of their most important functions), it can be equally important to institute a memorial for an event. For example, many 9/11 memorials have been created in the United States, and they serve as great comfort for those affected.
Research has shown that creating memorials is an important aspect of reconstruction and transition following a devastating event. Whether it might be a natural disaster, a conflict of some sort, or virtually anything that has sown pain and division in a community, memorializing the event makes it more tangible, and therefore easier to process.
Memorialization is an undeniably important asset for humans in turmoil, and the ways that people memorialize are continuously updating.
Finding Unconventional Ways to Remember
In the 21st century, a new trend in memorialization has emerged: living memorials. These sorts of memorials are living landscapes, such as parks or forests, set aside to specifically honor people or events. As the landscapes grow and thrive, the memories of their subjects do, too—this helps to quiet grief, and make it more manageable.
This concept has become so popular that the U.S. Forest Service has even taken it on as a project. Not only is this sort of memorial organic, and therefore meaningful in its simplicity, but it’s also a positive move for the environment.
Living memorials have the potential to meet the unique human desire for physical remembrance, while also addressing one of the most pressing issues facing the global community today. Planting trees offers a unique perspective on memorialization for these reasons, but it also provides an avenue for memorial where other methods might not feel appropriate.
Living Memorials to Show Respect
Grief is a unique beast. It can strike at inopportune moments, and defy logic in many cases. Grief can feel especially confusing when a person experiences it in response to the death of someone they didn’t personally know, or that they hardly knew.
This sort of grief experience isn’t uncommon at all. When celebrities, activists, or other well-known figures pass away, their loss can create a ripple effect across massive communities which extend far beyond the reaches of their own friends and families.
It wouldn’t be appropriate to place a headstone, or even to send flowers in most of these instances, but doing nothing at all can feel wrong too. Public mourning, as it’s often referred, can create communities of grief, but that grief can also feel as if it has no real outlet.
In these situations, living memorials like planting trees is especially appropriate. Without intervening directly, a mourner can help create a legacy in the name of the person who has passed or honor the person’s good deeds in life without overstepping any bounds. For whatever reason, this kind of memorialization makes it much easier to deal with confusing grief.
Planting a tree as a means of remembrance can also rally the community of grief surrounding the person’s loss, or even a traumatic event, making them feel more settled in the wake of their mourning.
All of this creates a sense of martyrdom surrounding the person who has passed, not only ensuring that they won’t be forgotten, but also allowing their legacy to live on, which is the essential role of memorials in society.
Plant A Tree
The need to memorialize is woven into the fabric of human civilization, but the methods used are constantly evolving. In an era where people are becoming hyper-aware of global climate change, living memorials seem an increasingly appropriate way to celebrate someone’s life or pay homage to an event.
With the Amazon rainforest producing a massive amount of oxygen as its trees respire, there’s great cause for alarm considering roughly a billion trees were killed in forest fires in 2019 alone. Choosing to memorialize a person or event by planting a tree in the Amazon is a way to ensure that the memory has a positive global impact.
A person or event that truly deserves an impactful memorial can have an entire forest planted in their honor. Not only will the person who paid for the memorial receive the satisfaction of knowing they have paid homage to someone truly deserving, but they’ll also receive concrete information about the trees they paid to plant, like their species and health.
Grappling with grief can be messy, confusing, and lead to feelings of inadequacy. Creating a living memorial by helping to replant the Amazon is a perfect way to honor the passing of an event, or celebrate an important life while affecting positive change for the planet.
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