We have always said that The Gifted Tree’s sweet spot is in between, when a present is too much, and a note is not enough. I was recently faced with this exact situation, and you probably can guess where this ends up, but let me back up a few years.

About five years ago, I decided that swimming was a great way for me to stay in shape. Every Tuesday and Thursday evening during the school year I would go to our high school pool for an hour of swimming laps. The session was actually two hours, but that is a little too long for me.

When I arrived my first day for the second hour, there was already someone swimming in the farthest left lane. This person had the worst swim stroke one had ever seen. His arm closest to the edge would hit the wall of he pool every time, not hard, but enough to make me take notice. He was also one of the slowest adult swimmers I had seen – a few minutes for each lap – and he swam the entire two hours. I made a mental note to stay as far away from this person as possible.

One night I arrived at my usual time and all six lanes were occupied, and only that far left lane was available for me to double up in. Not wanting to skip my swim, I asked this gentleman if I could share his lane. He quickly replied: “No problem, no need to ask.” I swam my hour and we both finished up at the same time. As we got out of the pool together, it was then that Richard told me that he was blind and had been since birth.

Richard and I swam together for the last five years. I actually loved swimming next to him when we had to double up in the lanes because you knew he would always swim close to the wall leaving me plenty of room on my side of the lane. I think our hands only knocked together once in all those years. When we finished at the end of the night, we said hello and chatted briefly, usually about how many laps he had swam that night and how he felt.

Last week as the indoor swimming season was about to begin, and I had actually said to my wife I was looking forward to seeing Richard, I learned that he had passed away over the summer. Richard was an inspiration. He walked to the pool, swam all two hours and then, always refusing rides home in any kind of weather, walked the 30 minutes back to his house. Never a complaint. Always a smile, a kind word, and a positive attitude.

Richard was not married and had no children, but through the obituary (which, true to Richard’s nature never mentioned his blindness), I was able to learn of siblings who lived in the area. I sent them the certificate for The Gifted Tree I had planted in Richard’s memory. It was the least I could do to acknowledge the passing of my swimming buddy and the inspiration and motivation he provided.


We know life events happen every day and a tree fits every occasion. So be remembered and say it with a tree … The Gifted Tree. Learn how you too can plant a gift tree in 3 easy steps.


Yours Treely,