Lubbock homeowner creates Christmas memorial to honor fallen loved ones

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) – While the holidays bring joy and cheer, it can also be a difficult time for people dealing with grief and loss.

A Lubbock homeowner has tried to bring some light into that darkness by creating a Christmas tree memorial in her front yard near 88th St. and Quaker. The homeowner was not available to talk with KCBD, but her friend Susan Gillispie was able to walk us through the story of how the memorial began.

“A year ago we were planning a wedding for my son and his wife, Brian and Emily. She wanted a very simple wedding. It wasn’t about the flowers and so forth. It was about trees. She just absolutely loved the trees and her momma loved the trees, as well,” Gillispie said.

Emily, devastated that she lost her mother to cancer before her wedding, wanted to find a way to honor her on the special day. Behind the altar, several Christmas trees were lined up as the decoration for her ceremony. Her mom loved trees and the rings inside their trunk, writing that every winter, trees add a new ring, adding to their story.

Gillispie read an excerpt from Emily’s mom’s writings, “May we treasure our own scars and lessons learned, for our story is part of a greater story. It’s important.”

She shared a text from Emily, “During our winter wedding, we were adding a new ring to our stories, one that would forever shape us as we go on.”

After the wedding, Gillispie was left with several Christmas trees and no idea what to do with them. She gave them to her friend, who started praying and journaling about how she could use them.

“August 16th 2021, I think it’s going to be so beautiful. I know I started out just wanting to decorate my yard for fun drive-bys, but down in my soul it desires some purpose in this,” Gillispie read from her friend’s journal.

Gillispie’s friend decided she would place the trees in her front yard for the holidays, to honor family and friends who have died.

Gillispie reading another entry from her friend’s journal, “September 14th, on my heart, daddy is on my heart for sure. And then the joy stuff, these trees, this is going to be great.”

Wanting more trees, Gillispie’s friend contacted a woman from Canyon who was selling one and told her what she planned to do with them.

“And little did she know that she had just lost her brother 31 days prior to that to Covid. And so when she found out what she was doing, she so wanted to donate this tree. And she asked her, could this be my brother’s tree? And so, that’s how it developed and more and more people have brought her trees to honor their loved ones that have passed,” Gillispie said.

After that, she decided she would place a plaque in front of each tree, with the person’s name and the words “difference maker” underneath.

“November 17th, today, we’re putting up the trees. Joy, all the joy. Honoring my friends, my family, and people who make a difference. Difference makers, yes let’s call them difference makers,” Gillispie read from her friend’s journal.

One tree honors Gillispie’s late husband, Joe Gillispie, the Woodrow Volunteer Firefighter who died a few months ago from cancer. That tree came from Gillispie’s home. It had been up year-round since 2018, what she thought could have been Joe’s last Christmas. As he battled cancer that Christmas, and the next in 2019 and 2020, the tree stayed up and became what she called their “joy tree.” She says there has been so much loss this year, the memorial is a depiction of joy in the midst of uncertainty.

“To bring a light in their darkness and their sadness, and realize that in the midst of sadness you can find joy. It’s the season. It’s brings back the miracle of Christmas. That it’s joy to the world and we can focus on the hope and the faith,” Gillispie said.

Gillispie says her friend would have trees covering every inch of the yard if she could. If you know of someone you would like to honor and have a tree to donate, you can stop by the home near 88th St. and Quaker. Her friend says anyone is welcome to drive by and say a prayer.

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