Covid-19 Memorial Tree

Thanks to Isabel Vander Stoep of the Centralia (WA) Chronicle for amplifying this Great Idea!

As of January 27, 2022, Lewis County, Washington had seen 206 people die of Covid-19.

Early in the pandemic, after the death toll climbed to about 35 people, Jane Parker, a member of First United Methodist Church of Centralia – a small town in Lewis County, decided she needed to remember that the people who were dying were people, not merely numbers.

Her response was to tie a white ribbon on a tree near the church, in remembrance of each individual.

As the tree became more full of ribbons, the pastor began a practice of ringing the bell each week as a more communal call to remembrance.

While the article doesn’t highlight either practice as such, both forms of remembrance can be meaningful contemplative practices: ribbon-tying being a very personal form, and bell ringing being a highly communal form.

To deepen the experience of ribbon-tying, take a moment to hold the person represented by the ribbon in your mind, you might envision them being enveloped in light or being surrounded or held by God. Remain in this sense of holding the person in God’s presence for a few moments, as you tie a ribbon on a tree.

In the same way, while ringing the bell, you might invite the whole congregation to hold the deceased in their hearts, or in the Presence of God, breathing in as the bell is rung, and slowly breathing out as the sound fades.

The practices can be healing for the individual tying the ribbon and for the entire community hearing the bells.

The article is worth the quick read – and may inspire a similar effort in your community.

For additional ideas around contemplative arts or contemplative activism, see our corresponding lib guides.