In December of 2009 as Lisa was headed to surgery to remove her large tumor, some friends of ours did a really special thing for us.
They felt like a lot of people would want to support the Tanner family at Christmas. Rather than encouraging folks to help in their own way, these friends put together a coordinated effort to do something that would be both meaningful and lasting.
Our first two elves came by our house in early December. They delivered a small Christmas tree full of lights, an angel for the topper and a beautiful hand-made tree skirt with our name embroidered across the front. They told us they had delivered our “Healing Tree” and that ornaments would soon follow.
Over the next four weeks, we received over 200 packages in the mail or on our front porch. In each one, there was an ornament. With each ornament, there was a story – a story of how that person was connected to our family.
One English woman at Lisa’s work sent a teacup because Lisa always picked on her about her accent. A college friend tied string to a matchbox car van – a similar vehicle to the one they drove to Florida one spring break.
The creativity was impressive. The deeper meaning for us brought laughter and tears.
Putting up ornaments this year was not nearly as emotional as years past – until I opened the Healing Tree box. Every item I touched had such significance.
It’s not just the loss of Lisa that I feel when I think about that tree, that’s only part of the emotion. Equally touching is the reminder of the love that was shown to our family during that most difficult time and my lack of ability to repay those who gave so much.
When you are so fully surrounded by love; when you know how desperately people hurt for and with you; it is a beautiful thing. I’ve seen compassion every day of my life, but never had I so personally experienced it in such an overwhelmingly large dose.
I am not thankful for my loss, but how fortunate I am to have experienced that astounding love.