As our nation recovers from the ordeals of the past year, we should all take a moment to reflect on how we have shown strength and solidarity in the face of the unknown and immense difficulty.
If you cast your mind back to the very start of the pandemic, before even the lockdown, you will remember how we moved from the typical blame-game to the reality that we needed to take care of and consider our actions to prevent the spread and save lives. Yes, we could have done things differently, and with the beauty of time and hindsight we might have done things better but nevertheless, people throughout the UK came together in a single voice to fight that invisible foe.
We saw drawings and artistic expressions in support of the NHS, clapping for our heroes, numerous appeals, messages and random acts of kindness for key workers and bright arching rainbows appearing across neighbourhoods and in peoples’ windows across the country.
As these rainbows begin to fade what now?
Well, we simply don’t know how the pandemic is going to affect each and every one of us; we know the vaccinations are continuing thanks to the government and the tireless NHS, who continue to be the absolute bedrock of our world. We know the economy has been massively hit and industry will suffer for years to come. We know millions of people have been directly affected by bereavement, losing someone close to them during and because of COVID-19. But moreover, and more critically we will see future waves of mental health issues, almost a secondary less lethal but equally important pandemic. People struggling with anxiety, work-related stresses, depression, and of course grief-related mental concerns and it is these support arms that will need the greatest help as they will be in return offering the most back to who needs it most.
However, with the right support, we will prevail, as a nation will overcome this adversity and alight the other side a stronger and more humane society. We will choose to look upon the faded pictures of support, not as forgotten messages and that hope has faded and lost but more so that like an actual rainbow as the rain stops and the sun shines brighter the light phenomenon of the rainbow nature disappears as well.
What can we do now?
The Forest of Memories is proudly supporting The National Day of Reflection on the 23rd March, taking stock of the last year and pausing at 12 o’clock to reflect over both the good and bad, remember the thousands of people who have been taken this year and importantly supporting the hundreds and thousands of family, friends, and communities they also left behind.
Much like the original meaning behind the rainbow, bringing hope to people’s lives, this day also promises to bring positive messages and support to anyone taking part. Whether that is for yourself, to take that moment to meditate over recent times or engage with groups and communities to remember them as someone you live alongside on this small island.
From our perspective, we are writing the hundreds and hundreds of names onto yellow ribbons that have come Memory-Trees.com, where people have been dedicating trees to that person they have loved and lost. We will be hanging these symbols on a number of trees at The National Trust Runnymede and Ankerwycke site between the 18th March to the 20th of April. We invite you to come and visit this beautiful park if you are able.
We are extremely proud to be collaborating and working with the National Trust Surrey landscape portfolio at this historic landmark to remember this pandemic together, at the home of other memorials like the Magna Carta, John F Kennedy and Runnymede Air Force, and hope that it will the place to bring awareness of our recent past.
What can we do in the future?
The Forest of Memories is offering a free broadleaf tree to all 140,062* people whose death has been related to the COVID-19 virus. These will be planted across the country at Nature Reserves, Community Spaces and Woodland Trust locations. But with the wider support of the project, The Forest of Memories aims is to offer a physical place, through a network of woodlands that people can visit; and with time can go and remember that individual, to spend time at the tree and offer prayers in nature.
The Forest of Memories is completely free and aims to offer a ‘life for a life’ with the planting of the tree but also archiving that personal digital memory and encapsulating it into the tree and forest landscape, but perhaps more importantly, as we enter a post-pandemic society, The Forest of Memories would like the site to offer a resource that helps people reflect, remember and to celebrate life.
To strength this symbol of reflection, The Forest of Memories wants also to allow memories and stories of that loved one to be available at that tree, should the family wish, the aim is to use technology and this archive to offer a personal, sympathetic and informative headstone to future generations, or even strangers, so they can understand exactly who they were in life through that Memory Tree.
To help bring all these pieces together The Forest of Memories have built, and continue to develop a website called Memory-Trees.com, users are able, if they wish, to share memories, obituaries, prayers, and thoughts of their loved one, while also requesting other friends and family to contribute to these shared memories through stories, pictures, videos, and other benefactions.