Garden Update: The Memorial Tree in Spring {Part 1}

I've stopped calling the Memorial Tee by its real name.

Not because the name isn't pretty or I can't remember how to spell it.  It is and I can.

Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger.'

Or, in English, "Tiger Eyes"  Cutleaf Staghorn Sumac.

And these are my little tree's given names and I suppose they always will be.  But I've taken to calling him the Memorial Tree because it isn't the name or the shape of his leaves or even the crooked way he grows that matters most to me.  It's all the grieving and the healing and the memories of a boy who left us before he had the chance to become a man.

I used to call it Nathan's Tree, but there's still this sharp pang of grief whenever I say his name and it's been nearly 3 years and I'm starting to wonder if it ever really stops.  Can there be an end to all the grieving when a life ends hard and fast and long before any of us can say goodbye?

I don't know.

But there is something I do know.  Healing has come in bits and pieces and maybe there'll always be this hollowed out place that still aches when the wind blows, but there's hope now, too.  And hope lessens the sting, gives way to joy, and somehow I've seen all of that here in the life of a little tree planted in the soil of my grieving.

I thought I knew why I chose this tree to grow in his memory.  I thought it was the cutting of the leaves, their brilliant colors in the month when we remember how he left us.  But then again, I thought I knew a lot of things.

It turns out, I didn't even know how much I'd broken the day he died.

But God's always known, and He let me choose the tree that would teach me the one thing I didn't know I'd need to learn.  Because this is a plant that won't come back to life after winter until the last possible moment, until you've lost all hope and you think there'll never be joy again.  Yes, that's the moment when this tree breaks bud, pours forth life, and there really is hope after all.

I didn't know I'd lost my faith the day Nathan died, but it's been long months since we all trembled in the rain of his leaving and I might've feared I'd never find it again.  But God found me anyway and this is how I know there's faith now where there wasn't any before:

This is the first spring since the grieving that I didn't fear the dying.

This year I waited in hope for the Memorial Tree to live again and not even for a moment did I doubt that he would.  Because God's been faithful where I thought He never could be and finally I'm learning to love, believe, become.  Sometimes it takes longer than we expect and we start to wonder if there'll ever be new life after all this death.  But if we wait on the One Who never fails, there isn't any reason to hold onto fear.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see {Hebrews 11:1}

I didn't know when I named this year that faith would show up in the garden, too.  In the tiny cracks and wide open spaces.  In all the broken beauty of a life.

No, I didn't know where or how He'd show up.  But I knew He'd show up.  And that's the faith I lost the day Nathan left us behind.

Who'd have thought a tree this small could hold so much meaning, so much healing, so much God?  Maybe none of us.  But that's okay because He knew all along.  He always knows.

And He's always here, right where we are We just have to open our eyes and see.

{The first spring, 2009}

{And now...}

As usual, I can't fit all the good stuff in one post.  Come back later this week for many more pictures of the Memorial Tree!

Garden Update:  The Memorial Tree in Spring {Part 2}