There’s a tree in my backyard that has been dying for sometime. When I first moved into my house four years ago I fell in love with the tree instantly. It had the perfect extended branch begging for a swing. So, I made a swing for my new favorite tree. My heart smiled as I tied the final knot to the bottom of the white washed bench. A loved one that is no longer in my life helped me hang it. I mention this because the lessons I received from this tree and what I learned in my relationship to this loved one are eerily similar.
I spent a great deal of time near this tree. Swinging over its roots, reading against its trunk, and staring into its mystery. Sometimes, I would swing and think of everything. Other times, I would sway and think of nothing. Days spent in smiles and nights marked by tears lay under the branches. All the while, the tree held this all-knowing wisdom.
At the first signs of sickness, I was devastated. I willed the tree to stay healthy. Calling upon magic, I placed my hands on the bark and imagined it regrowing, green coloring the limbs once again. I meditated with love on its rebirth. Barefoot in the grass, I crouched to the earth, and tenderly sang to the roots below my feet. I hugged the tree. (True story.) And then, I refused to accept what was happening. My neighbor said to me, “I think your tree is dying.” “Nope!” I exclaimed in complete denial. But my resistance did not change death’s momentum. It only made me bitter. I felt singled out. “Why MY tree??”
Alas, magic, nor will, nor resistance, nor love could save the tree.
Accepting this was mandatory for my own wellbeing. So, I gave in. I grieved. I sobbed. Giving into the grief, my grip loosened. My crying rinsed away the delusions. As I let myself experience the loss, I began to see the why. The wisdom the tree always knew. Because all things must die. It is not singularly for me. It is simply a law of nature.
We don’t like to look at death or think about endings. Our society is big on beginnings. And, often, we hold on to what’s no longer there, salting the pain. We pretend death won’t happen, things won’t end, making us more fearful when it does. We wrap our identities around the things we build, the relationships we share, the people and things we love, and the clothes we wear. The truth is...all of this will fade.
One of my teachers, Rolf Gates, said “The last lesson I will teach my children is to leave this world and let go of this body and this life with Courage and Grace.” I believe this statement to be true nobility. Profound wisdom. I believe this radical awareness of the inevitable to be a quality of enlightenment.
The dying tree and this dead relationship gave me a sweet gift. A little tiny wisdom nugget. Reminding me to accept endings as a part of life. And this small wisdom nugget will grow...when I lose miniature (my dog). And when I lose my parents. And when I let go of Lighthouse. And when I move out of my home. And when I lose my health to age. Not that any of these things will happen soon! But I am aware they will happen. And I am learning how to make my peace around it.
The relationship has been at rest for awhile, and the tree known to die for some time. The grieving and accepting applied the pressure needed to produce precious jewels of understanding. So, I was ready for today. Today began the process of physically cutting down this giant of a tree. My dad reserved the arm that carried my swing for last so that I could enjoy it one more time.
I sat on the swing placidly. Peaceful. Content. With tenderness I let the memories flood me. With gratitude I observed the quiet willingness of the tree to be dismantled. With acceptance and love I smiled. And With Grace and Courage, I walked away from what was gone.