I wrote a post last year (April 2009) about the redbud tree in my front yard. Here is part of that post:
There is nothing that tree can do to stop me from loving it. Looking at it simply makes me feel the love in my heart, the love that I am. What an amazing gift that tree gives to me. It provides me with a reminder of the love that I am, an opportunity to feel the love that I am…. Maybe that’s what love is, simply something or someone that reminds you of or reawakens in you the love that you are.
That redbud tree is no longer in my front yard. The disease I wrote about in the post eventually killed that beautiful tree. And so my friend the redbud continued to teach me about love, even in death.
I let her sit in my front yard without a single leaf on her for a whole spring and summer when others could clearly see that she was dead, because I was hoping she would still somehow come back to life. She had been so full of life, so it must be possible I reasoned. Yet, the truth was that her time as a redbud tree had ended and my holding on to her could not bring that beautiful life back to her branches. I had to let her go with grace. My holding her here because of my sadness and reluctance to let her go did not honor the beautiful life that she was.
It was time for her to transform from one form of life to another. I realized at some point that I could let her do it while I resisted or I could let her transform with love. That’s when I remembered the lesson of unconditional love that she taught me one morning as I sat on my porch looking at her. The question became, could I love her unconditionally even in death?
I decided I could. It did not mean that I didn’t still have some reluctance because I did, and it didn’t mean I didn’t have any sadness because I did. However, I didn’t want to tether her here out of fear of loss, but wanted instead to release her with love. It was a slow lesson to learn for me because I had loved that tree since she was a sapling. I did learn, however slowly, that I was not loving her by holding on to her when she was clearly already gone. The loving thing was to acknowledge the end of the life of my beloved redbud and find a way to rejoice in the new life that would somehow come from her death.
In the woods she might have had the opportunity to fall and decay and become a part of the forest floor that would eventually help feed another tree. I knew she wouldn’t have that opportunity in my front yard. I couldn’t really bring myself to cut her down though. Instead someone that loves me had an opportunity to practice unconditional love as well and be part of this process with me. I know she was taken down with a sense of honor and gratitude. So many opportunities she provided to practice her teachings.
She lay in pieces in my yard for a week. My daughters and I mourned her passing. I still feel sadness that I will not see her colors again or feel the coolness of the shade she provides or watch the buds form on her branches in the spring. I miss what she was. Yet, I had to find a way to celebrate her life and what she could become beyond being a redbud tree.
Rather than have her decay at the dump with other yard debris, she had an opportunity to transform in a more dramatic fashion. She became fuel for a bonfire that was part of a night of music and celebration and community. I think she would have liked that. I sat with her as the fire was lit and watched as she transformed before my eyes into flame, smoke, ember and finally ashes. It was sad and joyful at once. I knew through what she had taught me about unconditional love, that I could love her equally no matter what form she took and I knew she could remind me of the love that I am no matter what form she took.
She just never taught me about the sadness I would feel. And yet she did. Through her transformation she showed me that the love I felt for her could radiate through the feelings of loss and remind me of the joy she found in her new form. If I loved her unconditionally how could I not celebrate her transformation with her? I’m quite sure she enjoyed providing light for smiling faces, heat for roasting marshmallows, and warmth for an evening holding the promise of autumn in the air.
And now? Now I carry the memory of her beauty, her lessons and her love with me everyday, as well as the joy of knowing that indeed her life, in whatever form, continues to bear fruit.