The Forgiving Tree….a Memorial to My Dad

a family day with our much-loved dad

My anger seemed to rise with each dig of the shovel. How could people be so rude and selfish? The tree was clearly marked as sold and as such was visibly off limits to other customers. I had received a call a few days earlier telling me the tree I had picked out could not be found for delivery, but I felt sure when I described where it was they would find it and my tree would be waiting for me to plant in a few days. Not so.

Three weeks previously our family had been blessed with a cross-country vacation, the first we were all able to take together with both our sons in eight years. It was truly memorable and special to not only see the beautiful sights as we traversed our way from coast to coast, but the time spent together was a gift I’ll treasure forever.

Upon returning home, however, I found myself faced with a different journey of sorts, the journey of slowly saying “goodbye” to my dad.

the mischievous look we all loved

The nurses and staff on the hospital floor where my dad was could only be described as angels. Because he was a fall risk combined with a staffing shortage, my mother, my four siblings and myself were allowed to take turns sitting with my father around the clock…moments that were very special to each of us. The only negative was that his grandchildren and other visitors, with the exception of his pastor, were not allowed. There were a few times I was truly concerned that my sons and others would ever be able to see him this side of heaven again. That very real possiblility was almost unthinkable. Meanwhile, I treasured those moments with my dad, knowing these were some of our last, but also not fully able to comprehend that…how could I.

Before one of my scheduled hospital visits, I stopped by our local nursery to pick out a white pine tree. We had planted many evergreens, but now I wanted a white pine, and what a beautiful one I found. It was the largest available, but also had a beautiful large pinecone adorning the top of the tree, almost as if it were an ornament. I fell in love with it and couldn’t wait to have it home. It was paid for and tagged and pick-up or delivery could come later. I went on to the hospital where my full attention was now on my dad, the tree could wait.

As I sat with my dad during those two-plus weeks, he never ceased to amaze me. Though in pain and at times fearful over the very real struggle to breathe with end-stage COPD, he never lost his sense of humor, very quick wit, nor his concern for those around him or his extreme gratitude for those caring for him, whether staff or family. He would break out in songs of praise be it afternoon or 3 a.m. He was headed “home” and he was ready.

As one of my brothers stated, we could not have written a more perfect script. My dad received all the care the hospital could give to prevent further suffering, and then it was time to be transferred home where he would receive end-of-life care and be able to say his earthly goodbyes to the rest of the family. Specific prayers made were that he would not suffer, that he would be able to see others he loved, and that he would have the chance to meet his first great-granddaughter, as he had his first great-grandson earlier in the spring.

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Meeting first great-grandson with proud parents

Each prayer we prayed was answered, as well as some we had not. God was indeed merciful.

Even when it looked as if he was too far gone to comprehend his great-granddaughter, he rallied to smile at her, hold her little foot and accept a kiss from her as his grandson proudly introduced them. It was the crowning moment of God’s goodness and faithfulness to us all.

The next day we surrounded his bed with songs and love and tearful goodbyes as he stepped from this life into the arms of his waiting Savior.

The tree was planted. Its trunk was crooked. It was at least a foot smaller than the original one I chose, and it was missing not only the beautiful ornamental pinecone, but any pinecone of any size. I was disappointed, angry and hurt. I had decided earlier that the tree I chose would serve as a living memorial to my dad….evergreen as eternal life, with that beautiful pinecone, signifying a new life begun. This other tree delivered fell far short, or had it?

After watering the newly planted tree, I fiddled around in my garden for a bit to simply be alone. At some point in those moments of solitude it hit me. This tree was indeed the perfect tree to honor my dad. I could almost hear my dad, who never held grudges and forgave willingly, urging me to not only forgive the person who took my initial tree but also to pray for them whenever I looked at this crooked little tree that was now ours to nurture. The crookedness at the base of the trunk straightened as it reached upwards, a touching reminder as well of my dad…he would be quick to tell others of his “crookedness” before his new life in Christ, but oh, the beautiful, upright trunk that followed as he reached out with all his heart and life towards the Son.

Dad reciting part of poem TREES by Joyce Kilmer

I will think of you, dad, whenever I look at our little, crooked/straightened pine tree and with gratitude remember the life lessons you taught.

Happy 90th birthday and Father’s day. You are greatly missed, but your legacy lives on.

Until I see you again,

with all my love

Jenner

And forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6:12

The Tail-less Squirrel That Could!

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Early this spring, while sitting on my porch, I noticed a little squirrel, not quite like the others. In my backyard these little rascals are quite abundant, so one squirrel is just pretty much like another in looks and personality. But this one, when I noticed the difference, captured my attention, and soon my admiration, and now I never see him or think of him without being reminded of this beloved childhood book:

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As the title of the post indicates, this little squirrel is indeed without a tail! From certain angles his little tail-less rump is quite hysterical. One of my sons noted that he looks like a miniature ape from behind, and in fact he does!

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I don’t have a picture with the ape-rump angle, but I’m happy to have any pictures at all, because this tail-less wonder can really scoot!  His lack of tail slows him down not one bit, in fact, I think it has made him all that much faster than his little peers.

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We kept an eye out for him all summer and were treated with glimpses from time to time, but still we wondered how he would make out in the long run. Well, he has apparently made out just fine, as these pictures were taken only today, fourteen days into our new decade, and I’m delighted to see he is still going strong!

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showing off with the split-leg hang

On one occasion this fall, I noticed a squirrel jump from my bench to a nearby tree and was amazed at the speed of his leap.  On further inspection, I was surprised to see my little tail-less friend, which I have affectionately dubbed The Tail-less Wonder.

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I really should not have been surprised at all.  This little squirrel is obviously not letting a little thing like a missing tail slow him down a bit. In fact, he seems to exhibit quite the air of determination and spunk with an “I can do it” attitude… and indeed, he can!

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So, whenever you may have doubts about your abilities or feel inadequate for the task at hand, remember this little squirrel and the One who made you, just as you are…and like the little squirrel and little engine that could, you’ll soon be saying…

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Until next time, just go for it,

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you’ll never know unless you try!

∼Jen

 

Lines Written in Early Spring

 

Lines Written in Early Spring

By William Wordsworth

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I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

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To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

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Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

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The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:—
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

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The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

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If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?

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Until next time,

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∼Jen

Unknown Friends

There are no strangers, only friends we haven’t met…

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My football friend and mentor, Randy 🙂

When  I was growing up, one of the things I remember clearly was going shopping or on any outing with my mom and watching, ok, cringing, as she would engage in conversations or small talk with total strangers.  I simply could not understand why one would start a conversation or even make a comment to someone they had never met.  No place was safe…and the grocery store, especially the check-out line, was the absolute worst.

Fast forward many years to my adulthood, and the apple apparently has not fallen far from the tree!  It is to the point that my husband will jokingly ask me when I get home from shopping at my favorite grocery store, “Well, did you make any friends today?”  Yes, I now know the joy and fun of engaging total strangers on outings, and how nice, even if just for a brief moment, to get to know some of the wonderful people surrounding us in this journey of life.

On a recent day trip with one of my dearest friends to my first pro-football game ever,     I had the absolute pleasure of sitting next to Randy, who hours before was a total stranger. By the end of the game we were posing together for a selfie.  I asked him about a play on the field, and from that question he took it to heart that I knew absolutely nothing about football and proceeded to explain to me every single thing as it was happening in the game from that point onward.  I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I actually understood the very basic concepts, I just allowed him to continue his one-on-one ,play-by-play narration of the game.  It wasn’t just me, the whole section of strangers was high-fiving and sharing laughs and hugs as if we had all known each other for years.  In fact, it was the joy of interacting with total strangers, even more than the game, that took the fun to a whole nother level!

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Early to our section, soon to be filled with lots of “unknown friends!”

I am apparently not alone in my sentiment about interactions with strangers.  I can think of at least two times when just popping into a convenience store I have been stopped by total strangers.  One was a dear old man who had just lost his wife and wanted a friendly face to pour out his heart to, another was a woman who seemed to need to tell someone about the pain of her recent break-up. For me, a trip to the grocery store without engaging strangers is empty indeed.

My apples did not fall far from my tree either.  Both my sons love engaging total strangers in certain scenarios, and thankfully they are old enough that I don’t have to be concerned about their safety…just happy to observe that they see people in a friendly way as well.

In the end, wouldn’t the world be a much nicer place if strangers were seen as possible friends yet unknown…

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Celebrating a birthday after the game and friendship since first grade!

Until next time, go make a “friend!”

∼Jen

Book Review: What Birds Teach Us

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One of my absolute favorite things to do with my children when they were young was read aloud to them.  I collected many nature books, both fiction and non, to teach my sons about the beautiful world around us, and the book What Birds Teach Us by Ashley Hewson is one I truly would love to have had in my collection. The below description of his book is taken from his site:

The author and his wife are both avid ‘recreational birders’ This interest integrated with  the author’s family counseling studies, fulfills his desire to encourage and build into the lives of our youth, so that they can make healthy life choices and do life well. 

The book is a collection of the author’s observations and photographs from his beautiful country of Australia.  I have enjoyed his blog for the past year, so I was looking forward to having a collection of his pictures and words of wisdom in book form.  The book surely did not disappoint, and in fact, exceeded my expectations in the amount of content it contained.

It is a collection of very positive words of wisdom and advice based on the traits observed by the author and his wife of the various birds they have watched in the wild.  In short, it compares the traits and habits of the various birds to different character traits we humans, both young and old, would be wise to incorporate into our own personal lives.  In fact, there are so many more character traits than the ones that would first come to a person’s mind, and that is where it truly exceeded my expectations.

My one son has pointed out to me repeatedly how much he hated Aesop’s Fables as a kid. I read it aloud to he and his brother many times and had no idea of its traumatizing effects…I guess I should have known that turtles smashed on rocks due to their pride may have been a bit too much!  I wish I had a book such as this one, to teach those positive character traits, and many more, in a much more gentle way!  Not to mention, the photographs are simply beautiful.

I really can’t recommend this book highly enough. It would be a wonderful gift for any child in your life, starting as early as age four or five and upwards. Honestly, there are even a few good reminders for adults as well-my personal favorite is the chapter on creativity. It truly is a gift that will keep on giving!!

Until next time,

∼ Jen