Friday, January 2, 2015

My Father in the Trees

I visited my father's grave this weekend. He’s been gone almost 15 years. This time, however, there was something different. A barely-exposed root now traveled across the soft grass of his grave, borne from a tree just five yards away.

When my father died, I feverishly contemplated the loopholes that might bring him back – channeling some childish arrogance that my own thoughts could compel a different reality.  While my brain accepted the finality of his death like a good soldier, my heart kept its solemn and secret promise to keep looking for that loophole, to err on the side of a miracle. And so while I did not fully indulge my heart, I certainly acquiesced to it.  I never shared this hope with another soul for fear that stronger heads would kill it, leaving me to face another death.  And sometimes I still don’t think my heart has given up its quest.

But now I see the thick, barked root that grows between us, further separating our worlds, belying every hope in which my heart in its idiocy indulged.  My mind knows better.  My father continues to say goodbye as if death was a living darkness steadily growing its distance from the living.  The earth is reclaiming him every day, and nothing I conjure in hope can ever change that.

My father loved trees. He could identify most, often by branch patterns and leaves. He made incredibly beautiful furniture from the most exotic hardwoods. He knew trees, lived with trees, and worked with trees. Perhaps it is fitting that the trees now embrace him as he once embraced them. As the roots slowly and delicately encircle him deep in the soil, he will become one of them.

If I could wrest him from that tree’s viny grip and bring him back as my dad, I would. Yet I can find peace in knowing that perhaps his soul courses through the roots and branches and ultimately in the leaves above – that he is part of the shade that comforts others who grieve, that he provides a living canopy as I sit quietly beside him.

Perhaps this is something my heart can accept.  The bed of quiet grass beneath which he lies hides everything that he was to me.  But as I listen to the leaves above stir in the gentle breeze - as I listen with my heart - I hear him whisper.

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