Trees hold special memories

By Sophie Ryan

People can spend some time thinking of the loved ones who can't be there on Christmas Day while donating to the North Haven Hospice by visiting one of the many Memory Trees set up around Whangarei.

Every year North Haven Hospice sets up Christmas trees in the community that can be decorated with the names of loved ones who are no longer with us.

"It's about remembrance. A chance to remember your loved ones who you may have lost this year or any year," said North Haven Hospice's Hannah Blake.

More than 100 volunteers give up their time in the lead-up to Christmas to staff the trees and talk to people who donate.

"Its a really beautiful thing, you get people coming over and sharing their stories," Ms Blake said. Christine Aberdeen has been volunteering for the hospice with a Memory Tree for four years.

She spent a lot of time with the hospice when her father was ill and she felt compelled to volunteer.

Last year an elderly man approached her when she was taking donations for a Memory Tree and he asked her what it was about.

"He told me he had lost his wife two months before, he started to cry and I asked if I could give him a hug. We have been in contact ever since," she said.

Some people put just a name, others share their story, and sometimes it is just kids who want to decorate the pretty tree Mrs Aberdeen said.

"The hospice is absolutely fantastic. They were there whenever we needed it, and really cared about what we were going through," she said.

"Just talking to you about what was going on, that was the main thing."

After 19 years of Memory Trees in the community, for many people, donating to the hospice and writing a name on a decoration is part of their Christmas tradition.

Morris & Morris Funeral Services is donating $1 for every $2 contributed by the public.

A Memory Tree is being set up for the first time in Ruakaka at the Super Value, as well as these places around Whangarei: Mitre 10 Mega, Warehouse Stationery in Okara Park, New World Regent, Countdown Tikipunga, ANZ on Rathbone Street, The Hospice Shop and the Strand Arcade.

- Northern Advocate

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