WINCHESTER — While the holiday season is for celebration, it’s also a time of remembrance.
Clarke County resident Janet Green has given people a chance to remember loved ones who have been lost in car accidents and to bring awareness to the dangers of being distracted behind the wheel.
Green has teamed up with Meadows Farms Nurseries and Landscaping in Winchester to display Christmas trees with paper angels hanging off of them. The angels feature the names and pictures of people who died in car accidents.
Green lost her daughter, Heather, in a car accident in May 2015. Green said that Heather had been texting on her phone at the time of the accident.
“My whole world changed that day,” Green said.
Since then, Green has made it her mission to make people aware of the dangers of being distracted while driving. Green has spoken at school board meetings and taken part in online support groups. It was through these support groups that Green discovered the idea about the angel Christmas trees.
“I met a lady from California online that got the idea of doing this from her godson who had passed away,” she said. “She started with a small tree. We were talking about it and I said it was a really good idea. Last year, I made one at my house. I live on a farm and no one was able to see it. I posted pictures of it on Facebook and people instantly started sending pictures to me of their family members and asked me to add them to the tree.”
Green said that, as more people began to send pictures of their loved ones, she didn’t have room on her tree to display them all. She then turned to Meadows Farms.
“I asked them if I could do this here and they said absolutely,” Green said. “When I got here, they only had one tree and they realized I needed a bigger tree. That’s when they decided to let me do the whole front.”
Green said that she spends all year getting the angels and trees prepared. She said that she made up 15 Christmas trees this year.
“I get names and pictures for my own little file at the house and make angels as they come in,” Green said.
Green said that people from around the country have sent her pictures for her angels, from the Shenandoah Valley to Hawaii. She said she has also received some pictures from people in the United Kingdom. Green believes that this project is very therapeutic for her and the families who lost loved ones in car accidents.
“They’ll send me the pictures and they tell me their stories,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking. I would have to literally stop and walk away. My heart just breaks for them. It gives them comfort, so that makes me feel like I’m doing something good. I’m helping them know that, just because their child made a mistake, we can still be their voice.”
While the idea of the trees was to honor people who died as a result of distractions on the road, Green moved beyond that to honor people who have passed by other means.
“I have friends who have messaged me to ask if I could put their child on the tree and I cannot tell anybody ‘no’,” she said. “It’s important to them. There are suicide, overdose, and murder victim angels on there. Their families don’t want them to be forgotten, either.”
Green said that she chose Christmas time to do the project because it’s the time of the year when it’s hard for people who have lost someone.
“Now, instead of having an angel on top of the tree, I have 200 angels out here that meant something to someone,” she said.