Today marks the first anniversary of my father's passing. Time passes quickly, yet wounds of loss heal so slowly...
We're probably no more emotionally prepared for this than we were a year ago when he suddenly left this world. But there is a plan: to plant a tree for him, a maple, on my sister's property off OK Lane just outside of Whitehall. (I added this picture Thursday.)
This is appropriate for reasons that go beyond the metaphor of life replacing death. Sue and Vitus' home has served as our unofficial family compound over the years. Every Christmas Eve I can remember as an adult has been hosted there, and you can add most other holidays, birthdays and special occasions. So memories of Dad are especially strong, and you don't need to turn the pages of a photo album to recall images of him teasing a grandkid, nibbling on a Norwegian pastry or taking a nap on a comfortable chair away from the hubub.
Then there is the tree thing. I planted a lot of trees with my father, who approached the task like any other he performed around the house or yard. Deliberately, and with great purpose. The hole had to be just right, the soil and bone meal put down carefully in layers, and there could be no air bubbles in the water we fed into the hole.
Afterward, often for years to come, we would fret and fidget if a tree struggled to take root and show hearty growth in its new environment. There was never a shortage of water, tree food or old fashioned wishing and praying as we awaited the verdict.
Despite much love, care and effort, not every single tree made it to maturity. But there are some beautiful mature trees in Whitehall, and others on our property outside town known as the "tree land'' that we can pridefully point to as towering success stories for our father.
I was trying to think of a song this morning that might be appropriate for the occasion, and I settled on "There is a Tree' by Carrie Newcomer:
Last night I dreamt you very near
Though the night was dark beyond the glass
I knew you'd left before I woke
But you'd fogged the window when you passed
The air was still and smelled like rain
Though I'd never known so dry a spell
And what I heard there in the dark
Are the secrets I will never tell?
There is a tree beyond the world
In its ancient roots a song is curled
I'm the fool whose life's been spent
Between what's said and what is meant...
Here's a link to a performance of the song. Carrie Newcomer could just as well have been singing from Sue and Vitus' front deck, which Dad built himself more than 20 years ago and which only this summer was replaced.
Now a new tree will stand nearby to remind us each fall, with its blazing color, the spiritual beauty of our father.