“Sandy this is Jim. Is John available?”
It was the phone call that John had been waiting for, but dreaded receiving. Two months ago he received the call that his mother had died. Yesterday he had to listen to his brother tell him that his father has passed away. Too soon, John and his brother have to face another life altering loss.
While John and his brother cried and shared their grief I was automatically drawn to the dinning room window. And as I sat at the window, with an ache inside me that was overwhelming, I was forced to remember that my friend across the street was gone forever too.
Since that defining moment I have had this sense of symbolism swimming around in my head. Feelings are often so mystical and fragile they don’t easily transfer to words written on a piece of paper. Sometimes, it's easier and safer to just feel. Writing can be as painful and/or beautiful as exposing part of my soul, but sometimes the very act of forcing the emotions to work into words can give me a sense of peace that I can find no other way. John says that means that I am a writer, but I often think that maybe I am just destined to feel too deeply.
Directly across from my dinning room window was a beautiful tree. It sat on that small piece of property by the curb that belongs to the city. It was a magnificent tree, large and flowing. It provided shade and beauty for the house behind it, but it also gave untold joy to those of us that lived across from it. It reached higher then the houses and it’s branches reached far enough to spread its protective aura over most of this end of the block.
I love trees. I feel they are one of nature’s gifts. They spread their beauty over those of us that seek condolence or peace under their limbs. They provide shelter for the birds and the skittering little squirrels. They make me laugh sometimes with their funny, bent shapes. They make me feel light hearted and happy when their leaves carry on a breeze and light on my hand or head. Their beauty sometimes takes my breath away. They feel like protectors with their large, strong trunks. The tree across from my dinning room window felt like my friend.
I spent every day with my father when he was in the Convalescent Hospital. We sat under a beautiful tree onthe patio and held hands and although he had dementia he knew who I was. But the morning that my beloved father died I wasn’t with him. I too received a phone call. I took the anger and grief of that phone call to my friend the beautiful tree across from my window.
I got in my car, parked under that tree, closed all the windows, and I screamed and cried. All the while I felt safe and protected with my friends large beautiful limbs surrounding me, and when I was through the worst of that first pain of loss I knew that I had been given a gift of strength.
This winter a storm tore a limb off my beautiful friend. The tree was left with a large scar, but it still seemed strong. It hurt me to look at the damage that had been done, but we all survive damage and scars. But the other day I awoke to a loud whirring and the booming of men’s voices. When I went to the window to see what the commotion was about I discovered a city crew preparing to cut my friend down. I couldn’t watch as they proceeded with their task.
The loss of that tree has been very difficult for me. I go to the window expecting to see young children running under it’s dripping leaves when it rains, teenagers in love for the first time holding hands under it’s shady limbs when the sun is shinning, birds building nests, breezes gently blowing leaves ... and what I see is a space. I have an ache in my heart when I look out my window now, but I have the memory of the beauty and strength that tree shared with me.
And that is the symbolism I see in the loss of John’s last parent. When I lost my last parent it was a comfort knowing that John had both of his. We still had the strength, beauty, and caring of parents in our lives.
With the phone call yesterday morning our souls have a new scar. Now, what we have is memories and an aching feeling of loss. Our parents were the large strong trunks, the spreading limbs of peace, the leaves of caring, the sharing of their knowledge, and the core of the essence of our being. And as we sat in the dinning room quietly talking and sharing our tears I couldn’t help but look out the window and think how our parents were like the beautiful tree. They are no longer here for the two of us to lean into, but what wonders they shared with us. What beautiful memories to warm our hearts.