Fagus sylvatica “Purpurea Pendula”

This plant is a unique specimen in my garden. I planted it as a memorial to my brother Randy, who died of AIDS in 2009. I put some of his ashes under it and always introduce it as “Randy’s Tree”. It has grown steadily even when Louie accidentally cut its bark with the weedeater, but it recovered and is growing strong and full today. Unlike him…

I really miss my brother. We were just the two of us growing up and tho we didn’t always get along great we loved each other a lot. He was my best friend and my best enemy, as it often is with brothers. It’s been over 4 years now since I lost him and the pain is still sharp at times, and a dull ache at others. It’s hard to lose someone as close to you as a brother, especially a younger one and the only one you have.

He was an artist and I have a nice collection of his paintings from early in his life when we all lived together on an old homestead in the High Sierras in central California. He painted many paintings of the place we lived and every time I see them on our walls I’m reminded of better days when he was OK and healthy as a horse.

Sometime in the mid-80s he was diagnosed as having HIV antibodies in his system. He refused to go to western doctors, or should I say he tried to go to them but they all said he was just going to die so he quit their death rants and started on Chinese Medicine. He used Chinese herbs to alleviate his condition for many many years and kept himself healthy for a long time – over 20 years.

But he was also Bipolar like me, only he wouldn’t get a check up and get diagnosed till the end of his life and it started to eat away at his brain sometime in the early 2000’s. He slowly developed dementia and by the time he died he was barely there much of the time. I spent the last few months of his life first going to CA to get him back and then going to the hospice we put him in when we got him home to Seattle.

I can’t say enough good things about Bailey Boushay House here in Seattle. They are truly wondrous caring compassionate people and they made his last days so much better than they might have been. I visited him almost every day for over 2 months till the end and I’m so glad we had that time together. It was very hard being with him but I loved him so much, and he loved me back, and that made it OK to be there.

I lost him on Oct. 2, 2009 in the middle of the afternoon. I wasn’t there yet but a close friend of his was, and he sang him to sleep and let him slowly pass on in peace and harmony. It was a “good death” if there is such a thing. He wasn’t in pain and suffering like he had been for so many years and for that I’m grateful. But I’ll always miss him so much…. Sigh.

A little about this tree itself… It’s a weeping copper beech tree and it’s parent covers much of Europe. This is a garden cultivar that grows to maybe 10 feet tall or more with a mounding habit. I’ve trained it up to about that 10 feet now and expect it to mound up on itself and become more broad as time goes on. It’ll eventually have to be pruned to let us pass it when we go thru the gate next to it.

I’ve been amazed at how fast it’s grown here. Maybe a foot or more a year which surprised me as I thought they were slow growers. I guess it likes it here. Maybe it’s because of all the attention I give it. I spend a lot of time with this tree, just admiring it and thinking of Randy. Even now it makes me cry to think about him. It’s a living memorial to him and it’s the only one like this I have in my garden.

I’ve arranged the photos as I usually do, in chronological order so you can see it as it grows and in different seasons as well. I’m seriously considering taking the stake out but I think I’ll wait till warmer weather when the wind stops blowing so hard and it’ll have a better chance of staying upright. I’m not worried, just cautious. I don’t want to lose this one… not that I want to lose anything, but this is a special plant in this special Sanctuary…

So that’s about it. I didn’t talk about the tree so much as I did my brother. I guess I needed to do that. I honor his memory by writing this and I wish you all had a chance to know him as I did. He was such a creative guy and so loving and kind. I wish there were more people like him in the world. It’d be a much better place.

A great tree for a great guy,

Steve

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22 responses to this post.

  1. A very fine tribute, Steve! 🙂 Kudos to weeping for joy and memories!

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  2. A graceful memorial, both the tree and your writing.

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  3. I lost my younger brother, Richard Lee Watson, in Sept. 2012.
    He was only 46. I love your idea, but I’m a renter. I planted words instead.
    I still have an older (59) and a younger (44) bro, so it pains me to feel your loss.
    Both of my parents are still alive, and they had to learn to live with the death of a child.

    I wish your Randy Tree well! You, too. 🙂 Take care, Steve.

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    • Thank you for your kind words Keith. I”m saddened to hear about your own brother Richard. I’m sure you’ve planted some beautiful words to honor him, as you write so warmly and wisely. It’s very hard, and especially so for parents. I’m 63 so my folks have both passed and it was just Randy and me at the end. I miss them all.
      Good wishes to you as well, 🙂
      peace,
      Steve

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  4. Steve, what a beautiful tribute to your brother. The world was enriched having your brother be a part of it and I’m so sorry it was not for a longer time. I have 7 brothers and lost the 2nd to the youngest, 5 years ago to cancer. He was just 40. Even with time, it still hasn’t gotten much easier. I don’t have a plant in my garden to remember him by, perhaps I needed time, but your post has made me rethink this. Thank you. Sometimes we need a nudge. I have another brother who had worked in Seattle years ago. Everett to be more precise. He was just out there for a few years, but had volunteered at an Aids hospice in Everett. What great comfort they provide. Your brothers’ tree is beautiful. You’re also a pretty special brother.

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    • Thank you so much Annie. I wish he was still here.. I’m sorry to hear about your brother too. I think planting something in the garden to remember them by is a wonderful thing to do. Not that I don’t think of him every day but it’s nice to have place to “visit” with him in my own garden. You might feel the same way. Sounds like you have a very caring family. AIDS hospices have helped so many of us. They are a great comfort to those of us with family or friends suffering from this awful illness. I’m glad you like the tree, and thank you for saying such nice things about me. 😉
      peace,
      Steve

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  5. Thanks Steve. I miss him every day. And you’re a pretty easy fella to say nice things about. 🙂

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  6. Planting a tree in your yard + that it is the “only one” makes it special because there was only one of him:-) I am so sorry for your loss, but when this tree grows and stands tall it will be an “honor ” to his creative life + how he lived it to the fullest. He lived 20+ yrs by using what we grow from the earth to heal:-) Beautiful post.

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  7. I was reading today Ecclesiastes 3 + it made me realize the seasons in our life…+ after reading your post today it made me realize a tree is the perfect tribute to a loved one……:-)thank you for sharing-robbie

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    • I’m glad I could share this with you all. Planting a tree to remember a lost brother just makes sense to me. it “fits” in a good world view, as you say.
      Thanks for being here with me,
      Steve

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  8. Simply beautiful, Steve. Blessings.

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  9. Thank you for Randy’s Tree

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