April 20, 2011

Why a Tree?

July 13th, 2010, when we came home and told our children that the newest Wachter had gone on to Heaven ahead of us, one of them immediately asked, "Can we plant a tree?"   I know this is something that we've come to do in our culture to help us remember a loved one passed on.  But I will never understand what caused my little one to come up with such a thing.  However, it was a great idea, and it was decided then and there that we would do just that.  While we waited for the heat of summer to pass so we could lay down Gussie's roots, we deliberated almost daily as to what the perfect tree would be.  We visited the nursery, poured through landscaping books and searched tree catalogs.  It should have white flowers... it should bloom in May... it should be hardy... At last we settled on the perfect tree, a weeping cherry.

On a rainy Sunday in September, we went to the nursery and with great care and deliberation we chose our tree.  Once it was ours, it was sad to go away and leave him behind for the time in October when the men would bring him to our house for planting.  We began to look forward to that date as we had previously looked forward to our due date.  

After returning from vacation a month later, the Saturday morning dawned bright and cool.  As we saw the truck pull into the drive, everyone hastily pulled on clothes and ran outdoors to watch.  
I am sure those men thought we were quite bizarre... 9 of us, obviously fresh from bed standing about just after sunrise to watch them dig a hole and stick a tree in.  
But for us it was so much more.  It was the closure we all needed.  A chance to say hello and goodbye to a person we never knew but who mattered so much to our little group.  

The similarities that came to my mind as I watched were quite odd and yet in a way so soothing.  These two men with their strong arms prepared the ground with the same diligence that we prepare for the arrival of a new little one.  First, pulling back the sod, digging a hole and working nutrients into the soil that would sustain it for the first two seasons of growing.
  Then they delicately settled it in its new home with the tenderness a nurse places a newborn in the bassinet. 
     As they went about trimming and staking him, I thought of the busy details that surround the birth of a baby, weighing, measuring and observing.
And then at last surrounding the roots with mulch to help protect him through the winter months, much as one would swaddle a newborn babe.
And then they loaded up their tools and pulled away, leaving us to our own thoughts.
In the weeks that followed the boys eagerly and faithfully ran out each morning to water and tend to the needs of this little tree.
There was something so comforting in watching their task.  Every once in a while I would walk out there and find little presents left behind... a pinwheel, a truck, flowers.
Apparently, I wasn't the only one who needed this place.  We decided to plant some flowers and lay a patio to make our tree more a part of our gardens.
  Before the cold weather set in we set to work.
And then, as the weather turned colder, we watched as one by one the leaves fell.  We knew they would.  It was that time of year.

One might wonder why then, as they dwindled down to just a few, did I count those remaining each day?
As our due date approached and the first snow arrived, I loved having this little tree here, as if in some way we had part of our little one with us, too.  I thought it was just me, though.

Until the popcorn flowers.  

Ever since our first spring here, back in 2002, my kids have been fascinated by these flowers that pop up in our lawn each March.  They come long before the grass begins to turn green.  Allen calls them a weed and has done all he can to kill them.  But instead of dying, they just seem to multiply.  No one knows their real name.  They reminded the kids of a field of popped corn and so they have always called them "popcorn flowers."  We know that spring can't possibly be too far away when the children start collecting bouquets of these delights to bring to mama.

Every day that it isn't pouring down rain, we take a break to go out and check the progress of Gussie's tree.
It has been exciting to see it go from bare and brown

 to a few buds
 that start to open

 to beautiful blooms

 that remind us of the God who is in control

 We take a minute to check out which of the flowers we planted last fall are coming up

or opening

and how delicate

 and beautiful they are.

 How amazing to think of how something so dry and dead looking, survived the cold and harsh winter, to open into to something so full of life and hope eternal.  What a beautiful picture of how the Lord has worked in our family this last year.

And then one day, as we took our walk through the gardens, oohing and ahhing over the new things springing forth, suddenly the kids took off running and screeching with delight.  "Popcorn flowers!"  was their call, as they started grabbing up handfuls and giggling with the glee only spring can bring.  

And that's when it hit home.  As all the other children were making their bouquets, Samuel came running up to where Allen and I were standing, laid something under the tree, and said, "Here you are Gussie, here are some popcorn flowers for you."

I still don't know why a tree but at that moment I realized that it's not just about remembering.  For our young children, it's also about having something tangible, a place, a tree, some flowers, even a pinwheel that allows their brother to be part of our lives until we finally meet in eternity.  


  1. What a beautiful tribute tree that will remind you of the hope and future in Christ that remains to be seen when all things are restored.

    Love and Hugs ~ Kat