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By Nick Schrager
Nothing grows stronger than a mother’s love. Its roots, like steel, dig into the ground and it grows. It flourishes without food, it triumphs without water, and it is self-sustaining.
This is a story of love, hope, and what the holidays are really about.
Twenty years ago, Janie Drye of Lebanon, lost her son, Don V. Drye IV, in a car accident. He passed away at the young age of 16.
Every parent thinks the world of his or her child and Janie is no exception. To her, he was an angel, and he loved everybody. In fact, he wouldn’t let himself go to bed mad.
“He was just Don V. Humble,” she said.
For weeks after the accident, she and her husband went to visit him.
“We lived at the cemetery, day and night,” Janie said.
And while time heals wounds, this one is still open.
“Everybody handles it differently,” she said. “People look at me and ask ‘you still cry?’… My child’s still gone. Even though it’s been 20 years, it still hurts.”
After his untimely death, a group from the Gravel Switch, the Village Homemakers, got together and planted something very special – a Christmas tree. Today, the tree stands in the town as a living, breathing monument to Don V., so he will never be forgotten.
“It’s kind of a landmark in Gravel Switch,” Janie said. “I want Don V.’s memory to be kept alive.”
And it has.
Every year since 1993, the tree, which started at only five feet tall, has grown to tower over the tallest of folk, and each year, its teeming branches are decorated during the holiday season with golden lights and ornaments.
And the ornaments have meaning.
“The dove means love, and the star because he was the light of our world,” Janie said.
At the bottom, a small nativity scene rests under a warm glow. At night when it is all lit it is a beacon of comfort to those who won’t forget. Even for people who did not know her son, the memorial can still be enjoyed, she said.
Don V. has also been memorialized in a book called “The Children of the Dome” by Rosemary Smith. And, although he is gone, Don V. continues to give. A scholarship has been instated in his name for young adults in Lebanon, Bradfordsville and Gravel Switch. Each year, Janie gives the scholarship to a student who really needs it.
“I tell them ‘you do your best and make Don V. proud,’” she said.
Don V. Drye IV
June 2, 1977-July 27, 1993
When I grow up,
I want to be a pilot and fly like a bird.
I want to soar through the clouds like an eagle,
And capture the flavor of heaven.
I’ll touch the horizon on the wings of my dreams.
- Written by Don V. Drye IV
September of 1992