Earth Day and Loved Ones

The Best Green Ideas for Remembering Them

It hasn’t seemed much like spring in New York, but I’ve been thinking a lot about Earth Day on April 22. I love the opportunity warmer weather provides for reflection. It’s an unparalleled time for taking advantage of the outdoors and finding creative ways to remember loved ones. Below are a few of my favorite ideas for using Earth Day as an occasion to celebrate the family and friends you never want to forget.

1. Create a Memory Garden

Grow your loved one’s prized flowers, treasured plants, or favorite herbs. Or simply pick combinations of these that feature his or her favorite colors. Choose a prime location for your Memory Garden so you can see and enjoy it often. If you live in an apartment, this project can also be done with terra cotta pots. For more ideas on using flowers to strengthen memories of loved ones, please read these posts.

2. Fortify the Earth

Plant a memorial tree in recognition of loved ones on Earth Day. Explore ways to do so by using websites like (benefitting the National Forest Foundation) or (protecting wildlife habitats worldwide). For a more hands-on experience, saplings can be planted locally. Towns across the country host ceremonies for Arbor Day (held in April, too). You can also plant a tree in your Memory Garden.

3. Build a Refuge

After my father died, my stepmother Cheryl longed for a quiet place outdoors to think about my dad. Her ideal spot ended up being a secluded place right in her own backyard. She cleared out a few weeds, bought an iron bench at a garage sale, and . . . a refuge was born. You can read more about this idea and many others in Passed and Present: Keeping Memories of Loved Ones Alive.

My favorite part of Cheryl’s retreat is the path she made to get there. She gathered a large number of medium-sized stones and carefully positioned them one after the other until a line of rocks stretched from the side of the house to the bench. And then, over the course of several visits, she asked my children and my brother’s children to help her paint each stone with a different stanza from We Remember Them, a poem by Rabbis Sylvan Kamens and Jack Riemer.

Here’s how the poem begins, adapted below:

At the rising sun and at its going down
We remember them.
At the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter
We remember them.
At the opening of the buds and in the rebirth of spring
We remember them.
At the shining of the sun and in the warmth of summer
We remember them.
At the rustling of the leaves and in the beauty of the autumn
We remember them.
At the beginning of the year and at its ends
We remember them.
As long as we live, they too will live;
for they are now a part of us,
as we remember them.

So even though spring feels like it’s coming way too late this year, create warmth right now by focusing on Earth Day. Take a moment to consider the activities that would be most enjoyable to you. Then, while you’re still cozy inside, create a plan to make your idea happen.

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