A Tree Of Life, And A Wonderful Gift

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner

It’s been a hard year for me and many I know. I lost my mom three days after Christmas, December 28, 2020. Now, mind you, the woman was 100 years old, and blessedly, she did not die of COVID. I did get to see her for her 100th birthday on August 26, 2020, but I was not allowed to touch her. Nonetheless, COVID influenced my mother’s passing, because due to the quarantine policies in Seattle and in her facility, not one of us was allowed to be with her when she breathed her last. She was well attended by people who genuinely cared for her, and I am grateful. And, I must admit, finally becoming an orphan was strange.

People were wonderful to my family and me in those first few days when we were in shock. People prayed, and the things they shared had the unmistakable veracity of having originated in heaven. They sent flowers, cards, and fruit, and I felt so strongly supported by people from around the globe.

Then one day, Amy Golden, who works in Customer Relations for the City of Athens told me that she wanted to give me a very special gift as a memorial to my mom, Mary Ellen Hersman White. She had contacted the National Jewish Fund, which has planted more than 260 million trees in Israel since 1901. The foresters have also developed ways to teach other nations how to manage growing in arid soil.

When I was in Israel in 2014, I was pleasantly surprised by how green it was. I now know that in part this is because the National Jewish Fund has planted trees in more than 250,000 acres in a country roughly the size of the state of New Jersey. There is also a garden outside of Yad Vashem that has trees planted for Gentiles who helped to rescue and protect Jews during the Holocaust, people like Oskar Schindler, Corrie Ten Boom, and Raoul Wallenberg.

Now my mother never did that, but she did teach me about how unsettling it was to be a teenager traveling in Berlin in 1937 and seeing Hitler Youth salute Hitler. Simply stated, she and my father taught us to honor and respect Israel. She also was the descendant of German Jews who made it to the U.S. in the 1600s. So now, because of Amy Golden and her family, I have a reason to go back to Israel, as if I need one. I would want to see the things I didn’t see before, and I would want to see my mom’s tree.

I received some beautiful commemorative artwork and a kind letter from the organization, and some wording that I want to share with you. First there was a scripture written in Hebrew and English, taken from Leviticus 19:23 which said, “When you shall come to the land you shall plant trees.”

And then:

A tree has been planted in memory of Mary Ellen Hersman White- May this serve as a living tribute to her memory. The Golden Family

My soul is being restored, and my cup of blessing is running over. Thank you, dear Amy for such a thoughtful gift. My family and I will always be grateful.