On the south edge of JourneyCare’s Waud Family Healing Garden, a small grove of beautiful birch trees reaches toward the sky.
Among them stands one dedicated to Judith Simpson, a memorial gift from her family and friends to honor their “Judie” – who was passionate about nature conservation – and to thank JourneyCare for caring for her in her last days. The plaque beneath reads “In loving memory of Judie Simpson, Guardian of the Earth. A truer friend will never be found.”
Late this summer, 16 of those friends and family members made a pilgrimage to the tree to remember Judie exactly one year after they lost her. In a ceremony led by JourneyCare Chaplain Michael VanOeveren, her friends Pat Stack and Mary Horstman – both in Judie’s life for more than 40 years – explained why the tree is an important place to remember her.
“This birch tree is the perfect choice to honor her,” Pat told the crowd gathered. “I have one in my back yard and I always see the wind blow through it. Sometimes during a storm I worry that the tree might not make it. But then the next day the sun comes out and the tree is there. A birch reminds me of Judie because she was always there for me in the darkest times.”
The group also shared stories of what made Judie special, including her volunteer work as a short order cook at Curt’s Café in Evanston, which provides training to at-risk youth. At Curt’s, Judie as known for wearing silly aprons to cheer up the staff and guests. Her favorite still hangs in the kitchen today.
“She worked hard and laughed hard,” Mary said of Judie, who also previously worked as a manager for one of JourneyCare’s legacy agencies in the Information Technology department.
“We are so thankful to everyone who attended our memorial and donated to make this tribute to Judie possible,” she added. “The birch tree represents
Judie’s stewardship of the earth, and of others. This day was magnificent, in a simple and joyful way. Judie loved it! There was nothing more precious to her than friends gathering in her honor.”
Judie’s friends and family agree they are happy they donated to name the tree in honor of her and said they were grateful to VanOeveren and JourneyCare Stewardship Coordinator Alissa Schiada for helping organize their memorial in the Waud Family Healing Garden in Glenview.
“We were worried about how we would all get through such an emotional day and wanted to do something symbolic,” Pat said.
Friend Sue Casey added that the JourneyCare memorial made it possible for the group to gather in Judie’s honor with a meaningful ritual, even allowing Judie’s brother Ron to fly in from Philadelphia.
“For me, I am grateful to have been with others who loved her and knew how special she was,” Sue said.
Donations in memory of loved ones directly benefit JourneyCare patients and families who are in need, making moments count for those touched by serious illness and loss. Memorial gifts give special meaning to the family of the loved one and provide donors a heartfelt way to express sympathy, love and respect. You can remember birthdays, anniversaries or other milestones in their lives while helping people in need. For further information, click here or contact Karen Long, Annual Fund Director, at 312-492-3080 or firstname.lastname@example.org.