As we walked in the woods behind our house, that first spring we lived in our Vermont home, I was a tree. It was on the side of the path, but it stood alone. It was unlike any tree I had ever seen. It was tall- probably 40-50 feet high – but should have been a good 10 feet taller. Sometime early in its life, it suffered a trauma that caused its trunk to make a 90 turn and grow parallel to the ground before eventually growing up towards the sky. This tree had two 90 degree bends in its trunk and yet it kept growing. Those bends were way up at the top third of the tree. I named it the survivor tree.
Survivor tree became a beacon of inspiration for me; if it could survive these long, lonely winters, I could, too. Season after season, I would pass by and thank it, wishing I could see it from my house, yet grateful I got to see it at all.
This weekend, we took a walk in the woods. We came upon a fallen tree across the path. At first I thought, “Huh-oh, that’s not good” and then suddenly like coming upon an accident and realizing it was someone you loved lying dead, my heart cracked as I recognized the 90 degree bend. My survivor friends had not survived the wind. It had to have been recent because the leaves were just turning. We could see its insides had been rotting for a long time. The fact it had stood for the 4 years I had known it suddenly shocked me and filled me with greater admiration for this mighty maple.
The way it fell across the path, everyone who chose that path would now have to be a part of that tree, climbing it the way I imagine it would have enjoyed being climbed with those awesome angles, recognizing its beauty, and offering condolences in the kind words of sadness.
Sometimes survivors fall. And with a little intention, luck, and grace they touch someone enough to remember and mourn their absence when they go. May we all be so blessed.