When my friend’s car pulled up to my childhood home, I always cursed the tree in the yard because it blocked my view. Anytime I decided to look out my window, the green and brown leaves fell like a waterfall especially when the wind hit the branches. As I walked outside, a parade of browns, greens, and yellows made a messy pattern and if I stared at the leaves long enough I could create a picture of an abstract piece of art in my head. The tree always looked like it extended its hands to protect us even when we weren’t looking.
Thirty three years ago, I watched and helped my father plant that tree in our yard. Even though I was young, I recall the source of pride on my father’s face. First house. First driveway. First mailbox. First tree. He took special care around the soil, toiling it with his hands and making certain he ensured the proper environment for the tree to grow. Through the years, it grew taller and taller and the leaves started to fall in the street since the branches extended and arched over the sidewalk. Notices would come in the mail warning my parents to trim the branches otherwise they would be fined. My father complied with the request and would employ the help of his best buddies in the neighborhood to trim it down. It would almost always be a Saturday morning event. The ladder, the electric saw, the rake and my father would work to keep the tree on its best behavior.
One of the most piercing memories that still stings me in my stomach is a video my father’s friend took of him working on the tree. It was post-cancer, but my father still insisted on participating in the bi-annual tree trimming event. Frail in his frame, he still did what he could by picking up stray branches and raking leaves. It is the last memory that I have of him not sewn to a hospital bed. His personality was summed up by that tree: strong, restless, moody, and resilient.
Last week, my mother called and told me that because she was in the same area of our old childhood home, she had an urge to visit where she spent most of her years with my father. The new owners have made it completely their own – something I expected would happen, but didn’t realize the effect it would have on me. In one sentence she knocked the breath out of me. “Rudri, they cut the tree down.”
I kept and keep saying it over in my head again. Not wanting it to be true. I keep rationalizing and saying to myself it was just a tree. But I know this isn’t authentic. It wasn’t just a tree. It was my father’s spirit. His hard work. His persistence. His happiness. His sadness. His proof that he was alive. A lingering sadness grips me as I write this.
I need to come to terms with this grief and acknowledge that it is a world without my father.
And for me, this world will never be the same.
It’s always sad not having a person we love around us. It becomes even more painful having to confront things, events, persons that remind us of them. I understand your pain as I also lost my mom a number of years ago. But living each day and striving to be someone I know she’ll be proud of consoles me a bit as it allows me to live her legacy.
Oh Rudri, so sorry. I know the powerful presence a special tree has on our memory and emotions. Big hugs to you.
I think that even knowing things like that will happen will never lessen the grief. The tree symbolized your father in so many ways and I can imagine the pain of the tree’s loss and your father’s loss are in so many ways connected. Sending you lots of hugs, friend.
So poignant are the parallels between life and nature. What a sweet, tender memory of your father – something to hold onto, really. Even in your grief. Your comment about a life without your father brought to mind, for me, the theory of, you know, when a butterfly flaps its wings….. He made a lasting difference and thumbprint on the world – through his family and spirit. I’m sorry for your loss and for your painful moving through grief. What about planting a tree for Father’s Day this year? In your yard? In his honor? Wishing you peace.
Oh that must be hard. It is difficult to come to terms with such an acute grief.
On a separate note, I also wrote about how things will not be the same. In a strange way, the passage I quoted might find you some comfort, or at least perspective.
So sad for me to read this post. I am sorry Rudri. Xoxo
This is so tenderly rendered. How hard that news must be. One loss that points to another. Trees are very important in my family too. We fought hard to keep my great, great grandfather’s apple orchard from being taken down for government purposes. Oddly, I just posted about trees…well apples, really.
But think of this: you are the living branch of your father. You carry the fruit of his life forward. You honor and remember him in not only what you write, but how you live. Those trees, the real and the metaphorical live forever, just as your father does–in memory.
This made me sad for you. I’m so sorry!!!
It broke my heart, too, when they cut down the the Magnolia tree in my grandmother’s front yard. “Making it their own” often doesn’t include the sweet history, does it! I loved your post!
Maybe you can invite the spirit of that tree to be one of your guardian spirits, carrying it with you not in memory but in living embodiment of hard work, resilience, happiness, flexibility, abundance, life and love. Every tree, like all of us, makes its way to shivasana. Time for Tree Pose? Namaste
This was heartbreaking, Rudri. I am so sorry. I would feel the same way. It helps, even a little, to have something in the physical world to remind us of and to stand for our loved ones. To have that taken away too is a second blow, a second loss.
So sorry to hear of this news. Grief is such a strong emotion and loss of anything related to the person we’re already grieving can seem like too much reality.
These symbols are so important to us – and something about a tree represents life and growth. This is deeply saddening, Rudri, and all the more so because of the memories you have associated with it.
Of course it hurts. I’m so sorry.
So very sorry about your father’s tree. I recently went by the first little house I owned…720 square feet of cuteness surrounded by apricot trees. Well the house is gone, so is my old porch swing and the six apricot trees. There is a huge MacMansion taking up the entire lot. It still makes me sad. I keep telling myself I still hold the memories of so many wonderful times we had in that house. Thank you for sharing the memories of your father. You write beautifully.
On one-hand I deeply appreciate the power of symbols on our emotions, especially in the natural world. And even more-so the stories and memories related to a familiar tree…I have experienced that loss knowing a tree that seemed to be a part of my family had been cut down, and I understand even more how with death a tree can be a much more profound reminder and testament to a person’s spirit when the last images blur over the image of their physical frame and their body no longer represents who they are to you…planting a tree is also a great tradition with death that may bring you a sense of relief and expression in your continuing grief. What you shared here is beautiful and profound and I’m grateful to have read your story.