Tree holds memories of loved ones
From her own tragedy earlier this year, Becky Thomas felt compelled to honor the memory of her son. She just didn’t exactly know how to do it.
The autopsy report for Derrick Scott Jacobs listed ‘accidental drug overdose’ as the 35-year-old’s cause of death, which happened Feb. 7 in New Albany.
Thomas said her son battled with drugs for about a decade, and, after efforts to help him failed, she resorted to tough love.
‘It meant he couldn’t come here when we weren’t here. I tried to help him and then I had to go to tough love. Does that mean I don’t love my son? No. It means I do love him,’ Thomas said.
A hole in her life, she said, will probably never be filled.
‘I don’t want that tree to be out there. I really don’t. I would give anything to have my son back. I know it’s not going to happen. I didn’t get my goodbyes or to get to see him or any of that,’ Thomas said.
The tree she speaks about is a large pine at the intersection of Corydon Ridge Road and Browns Lane on the east side of Corydon. It’s adorned with dozens of ornaments in honor of loved ones who have passed away.
‘Mind you, I didn’t want to do this, but, when my son passed away in February, I just was thinking I need to do something for him and the memory,’ Thomas said. ‘We don’t have a lot of money to do scholarships or things like that. I said maybe we’ll just hang an ornament on the tree.’
What started with four ornaments for her son has grown to a variety of decorations on the tree. Some ornaments have names ‘ Gary Haub and Fred Schuppert, among others ‘ while others are simply labeled ‘Daddy.’ Some have no markings at all but are known and remembered by those who placed them.
People are welcome and encouraged to place their own ornaments on the tree in memory of a loved one or perhaps in honor of someone in the military. Thomas said she won’t bother anyone who parks in her driveway to place an ornament. She said she believes it’s a time for their own personal reflection. However, if they want to talk, she’ll listen.
‘You don’t (know) the feeling of sickness and emptiness and the whole nine yards when you lose a child. I told my husband I wanted to call it the ‘always in my heart forever tree,’ but we shortened it. Basically, it’s a memory tree,’ Thomas said. ‘I go to Northside Christian Church to a grief share group, and a couple of ladies helped me word (signs by the tree) and my husband worked on the sign for three or four days. I wanted to help the community, to remember somebody or honor somebody or maybe they are in the military. I wanted to try to maybe help other people. I honestly did not think I’d have this many out there the first year. I didn’t advertise it; I didn’t put it on Facebook. It was just word of mouth and people passing by.’
Thomas said Jacobs’ daughter loves the tree and placed an ornament for her father.
‘I think it helps me in that I feel like I’m helping other people,’ Thomas said. ‘A lady stopped yesterday, and I don’t know who she is. I’ve lived here since I was 15. No idea who she is and she put up an ornament for my son. I was touched.
‘I know losing a loved one is hard. It’s something we all have to go through, but there’s no preparation for it,’ she said. ‘I might have one good hour and maybe three bad hours. That’s just the way it is.’
Thomas said she’ll remove the ornaments after New Year’s Day and place them again next year during the holiday season. Anyone who wants to keep their ornament can do so and put it back up again next year if they’d like.
Thomas said she’d like to figure out how to put a star or an angel atop the tree. It’s a spot she stares at as she gazes toward the sky while remembering her son.
‘It’s hard,’ she said fighting back tears. ‘If I can help other people, then that’s what I want to do, to try to help them through their pain. That’s something that’s always going to be there. To me, this is a simple story that had something tragic happen.’