So, I am glad not that my loved one has gone,
But that the earth she laughed and lived on was my earth, too,
That I had known and loved her,
And that my love I’d shown.
Tears over her departure?
Nay, a smile
That I had walked with her a little while.

First lady, Barbara Bush

…the passage of time never really heals the tragic memory of our loss,
but we carry on, because we have to because our loved one would want us to,
and because there is still light to guide us in the world,
from the love they gave us”.

Senator Edward Kennedy

The Healing Tree
By Jacqueline Vita

The little tree shivered as the cold night air wrapped itself around him. “How cold I am now,” said the tree. “I can’t imagine how cold I will be in the coming months of winter. My branches barely have had a chance to grow strong; my truck is still skinny but tall,” he thought.

The tree thought back to that summer’s soltice, it was set in the earth in memory of a most beautiful child. Just even a smile from her could put sunshine into any rainy day. Her warmth attracted friends both near and far alike. The little tree was so proud to have purpose and he dreamed of one day putting smiles back on people’s faces when they looked upon his beauty.

Now, what few autumn leaves were left, began to fall and he instinctively knew he had to be brave as gone now were his clothes. Luckily, there were many afternoons when children would come by and visit with him. There were stories, laughter, and quiet times as well, when a few would come by and say nothing at all. Sometimes, the little tree felt so sad too and a few extra leaves would fall to the ground.

People would bring gifts of flowers, gaily colored ribbons and even try to decorate the little tree. At times, the weight upon him was so heavy he feared he could not carry the load. Yet, somehow, he would make it through and then he felt stronger for having tried. This tree was a well-loved tree and knowing that made him feel mighty despite his small size.

The first snowfall came in early December. Surprisingly, it kept him warm. Fewer visitors came by except for the constant bevy of girls that seemingly managed to visit. On their last visit, they hung a Christmas angel ornament upon a new bough. The little tree worried, “If the wind blows too hard, this finery could break.” Therefore, when no one was watching the tree shook its branches upward so the ornament slide closer to its trunk. “Surely, it will be protected there,” comfortably thought the little tree.

On Christmas Eve, Carolers came by and sung hymns. The little tree felt honored to be in their presence. He also noticed some of the girls that visited before to hang the angel ornament. Therefore, he gently waved the ornament-adorned branch carefully catching the reflection of the twinkling candle light. The girls began to notice and winked back. As the carolers strolled off, the girls came up close to the tree and hugged it. “I miss us,” whispered one rosy cheeked girl. “I miss you so much,” said another as her warm tears melted the tiny bits of snow that dusted the delicate branches. With all his might, the little tree moved his branches toward the girls as if to embrace them.

More snow came and there were many cold nights and quiet afternoons. Yet, the lovely girls would trek to see the tree even if just for a brief visit. Their visits always brought heartfelt conversation and the tree delighted in hearing more stories about their adventures. The little tree loved these visits.

Spring was coming, and the tree began to itch as tiny green buds appeared. Thank goodness for the rain as it washed away the itching. The buds were plentiful now and so were the weeds that surrounded him. The girls came again and this time they raked, they weeded, and they planted. The little tree had grown enough now that he no longer swayed in the gentle breezes. New leaves sprouted and rosy pink flowers began to show their color. The little tree knew everyone would admire his delicate blooms.

When the tree was in full bloom, a large group came and huddled about ushering in the first day of summer. The girls were all there and some made sure their ornament was secured. Again, one leaned in close to the tree, “We had the best times together, I really miss you.” The little tree swayed toward her and released a few rosy petals into her waiting subtle hand. She kissed them and tucked them neatly into her pocket. When everyone left, the tree admired all the lovely flowers placed around him. The tree continued to grow while enjoying the sunshine and impromptu visits during the hot weather.

The little tree shivered as the cool night air nipped at his arms. “It will be getting cold again,” thought the little tree. “But this time, I am ready, my trunk is stronger now to battle the cold and my branches are many. The cold winter months shall not be too hard for me,” he trumpeted.

Dark long shadows filled the air as goblins and ghosts walked about. Kids passed by in frenzied emotions attempting to collect as much candy as their pumpkins could hold. Then came along a boisterous group of kids who wandered through knocking over all the lovely vases. They tossed cans on the ground and trampled over the orange and burgundy flowers that were still standing. Suddenly one youngster grabbed hold of two of the tree’s branches and snapped them off laughingly. He did not care much about the tree or seemingly anything. When they left, all that remained were empty cans, squashed flowers, and broken limbs. The tree cried and grew very sad. He knew the girls would be back and be upset by what they would find.

As autumn grew colder, his leaves fell quickly further exposing him to the elements. He now feared this exposure less, however, as he realized there were bigger threats to his survival out there. The snow came early sneaking in a first fall between Thanksgiving and Christmas. When the girls came to visit, a blanket of white concealed the damage. Again, they looked for the angel ornament and were relieved it was still unharmed where they left it. However, upon closer inspection they discovered the broken branches. “Who would do such a thing to you,” they stammered. The tree seemed to swing its limbs as if to answer, “I didn’t know them.” The girls gave a closer look and saw all that was disturbed and quickly took to clean up.

On Christmas Eve, the Carolers returned and this time they helped string tiny glistening lights through the tree, tying some branches together for added strength. The little tree felt mighty again. Now all the debris was gone and lush boughs of holly graced the vases amid red velvety bows. Christmas arrived and the tree was in all its glory.

The winter was kind and the little tree grew even more. Each day he felt stronger and renewed in thinking he was becoming a mighty tree once again. Springtime was magnificent as the tree bloomed and stopped all who passed by it. The tiny lights were invisible among so many rosy blooms. Stronger, new branches had now grown in place where the weaker, broken ones once had rooted. The tree now stood majestically and firm.

June came bringing more to visit and each time the girls would engulf the tree with big hugs. “I love you,” one shouted. “Me too,” said another. Gone were the many tears from their faces. Now instead upon them he found wide smiles that made the sun pale by comparison. The tree swayed one branch after another showering the girls with rosy pink petals. They held out their hands and caught as many as they could, and carefully placed these into their pockets for safekeeping. They stood in silence, admired the tree, and saw their angel glistening as the sun’s rays hit it. They hugged the tree once more, whispering, “Friends forever.” With their smiles they walked off as a flurry of petals swirled and cascaded around them.

The cold crisp air ushered in and before returning to the tree, the girls this time gathered first at the seaside. Standing along the shore, which they had shared so many laughs, secrets, and dreams, the girls huddled next to each other and silently sent their messages of love to their best friend who had brought laughter and sunshine into their lives. As each walked to the water’s edge, they carefully took out the rosy petals from their pockets as the wind whisked them away to kiss their friend once more.