Dear Patrick,

You weren’t always my favorite tree. I know this is a weird way to start a love letter, but one of the many reasons I love you is because you never judge me, no matter what. You know I can be blunt.

When I was five years old, my favorite tree was the one that grew in the garden behind my house, the one we once dressed up to make a diamond mine for my brother’s birthday. A few years later, my favorite tree was the one they had cut down at the park, the one that now served as a nature playground. Over the years, I have loved many trees. In fact, I think I have loved every single tree I’ve ever seen. I am the kind of person that loves freely and passionately, the kind of person that randomly stops in the path to give a tree a hug.

Still, you were the first tree I ever named. I still remember saying, “His name is Patrick,” without skipping a beat. I remember patting you every day after class. A gentle high five to nature. I remember being in denial about what your cut branches meant, trying to reassure myself with your brave new leaves. They wouldn’t cut down a tree that was still alive.

But they did. It was September 24, and people started to approach me in the library, soft pats to my back as they whispered the feared words: “I am so sorry about Patrick.” Every time a new face covered in sadness came into my field of vision and offered me comfort, I had to put on a smile and nod. But it became easier, somehow. Eleven people came to me the following week, some outraged and some deeply saddened, but they all came. I made eleven people care about a single tree. You stole the hearts of eleven people, Patrick. And that’s all I really care about.

I know I promised you a grand funeral. I promised to cover the campus with Lorax quotes and to host a little service with music and tree-shaped cupcakes. But I think we made the right choice, didn’t we? It was nice to break the rules and step over the yellow strips that prevented me to get closer to you. It was even better to sit against you once more and read like I used to. It was beautiful to cut down the last of your leaves and press them between the pages of the poetry I read aloud to you.

And, once in a while, I am reminded you are still looking out for me. There was that puppy you sent my way the day of your death, when I was not aware that I was about to lose you. It followed me along the path, allowed me to pet him lightly and then returned to its owner. And then there was the newspaper man you made sure I would cross paths with last Friday, just when I was about to give up.

Soon it will be three months without you. And I intend on keeping my promise, you will see. For every month without you, there will be a new tree on campus.

Thank you for everything, Patrick.