“Ian was very in tune with people and took the time to sit and talk and seek out people that seemed alone or awkward in a setting,” says Karen Green, Occupational Health Safety & Wellness Nurse and Ian’s mom. ”He knew the little details of people and would often do something out of the blue to cheer people up or just for no reason.”
On May 24, 2014, Ian sadly passed away in his sleep unexpectedly, at the age of 19. In honour of Ian’s memory, Karen’s colleagues Krista Stultz and Barb Whynot, collected donations and planted a tree in Newman Gardens.
“It was a classic example of the IWK family at work,” Karen says. “Incredibly thoughtful and supportive. I do not know who donated to Ian’s tree so I cannot thank them in person but if I could I would give them my heartfelt thanks.”
Karen says Ian’s tree provides a place where Ian’s friends can go and talk to him to work through things, just like they did when he was alive. Karen has heard from many of Ian’s friends that they love just spending time with his tree. And it’s also provided comfort for Karen and her family over the years as they work through their grief.
“I will never forget this. It was on Ian’s birthday December 16, the first one after his death, our family was sitting around the kitchen table, when I received a Facebook notification from one of Ian’s friends – they had decorated his tree for Christmas,” Karen shares. “That just meant everything to us.”
The decorators were members of the pipe band Ian was a member of – Dartmouth & District Pipes and Drums. They have done it every year since.
Karen reminisces about Ian’s many connections with the IWK over the course of his lifetime.
“When he was born, December 16, we were in the hospital for a few days. I would be feeding him and overlooking the gardens. The Christmas tree was lit at the time and I found it very peaceful,” Karen remembers. “It actually gave me comfort remembering this when his friends decorated his tree on his birthday for Christmas.”
Ian went to every Kermesse and fundraiser for the IWK for years, was a change bandit in junior high school for the IWK Radiothon, and was a teen summer program volunteer.
Karen was a founding member for the Nova Scotia Firefighters Burn Treatment Society for Camp Connect, a camp for burn survivors. A voluntary position, it necessitated Karen enrolling her children as campers. Ian attended burn camp for a number of years and made relationships with the other campers and staff, as well.
“He interacted with children and adult survivors who had physical changes in their appearances due to their injuries and emotional scars, as well. He saw how it affected their dealings with others, and he became aware and comfortable and accepting of others.” Karen says. “I have heard from many people after he passed about his accepting nature and I do think his exposure with the burn camp had to do with it.”
Karen spends time with the tree as much as she can, eating her lunch outside when the weather is nice. She even manages to chuckle to herself about the irony of a Japanese pear tree being the memorial for Ian. “His friends find that hilarious – Ian disliked fruits and vegetables, so his spirit is still bringing joy to us.”
Thursday, May 16 is Love a Tree Day.