Mom’s Tree

On my first morning to wake up at Kansas City Hospice House, Mom’s night was quiet, but I just wasn’t sleepy. As I gaze out the window into a panoramic view of woods, I see a very regal old Hickory tree. She stands tall and stout, supporting many mature branches. A burgundy vine clothes her trunk. Many birds roost in her branches. Looking closer, I can see decay, sections of missing bark and broken branches. The tree is dead.

What a contrast among all the life around her. How does she continue to stand? Why has a strong wind not toppled her? She still has roots. That has to be the answer. She has not let go of her foundation that keeps her upright.

There is an amazing tranquility in her current state, and one can only imagine her youthful beauty. Yet, there is a serene beauty now. Will a wind come someday and lay her down? I think so. All in good time. Will the landscape change when she is gone?

Yes, it will change dramatically. But her decaying wood will nourish the soil and all the strong trees around her will gather more light. One day, they will take her place and flourish. They will grow straight and tall. They will provide for new generations of birds and animals. But the memory of that stately tree will never be forgotten.

One day, perhaps someone will gaze out this very window and another story will be told. For now, the sun is rising and her branches cast a beautiful shadow. In it there is no evidence of decay or breakage, only her unique silhouette can I see.

A few days later, my sisters and I walk the dewy path for one last visit. Mom’s tree still stands majestic, but now the branches seem frail as they frame the full moon glowing in the heavens. A buck and his doe quietly graze in their green pasture. Our praise and thanksgiving is accentuated by an owl’s night cry. On the grass near the feet of Mom’s tree, we lovingly scatter rose petals. Finally, we tearfully join hands and walk away. Yes, our world did change dramatically.

May the sharing of this story bring you comfort as we express our mother’s love, the blessings of her life and passing from this world into eternity.

Adapted from a story by Bonnie Luther Hayes

In memory of Doris Ann Luther, April 10th, 1919 – September 28th, 2012

This tree stands outside the West courtyard at Kansas City Hospice House™ and inspired this story, a metaphor for the circle of life.