April 14, 2017

This is not the end.

Last summer, my husband planted a tree in our yard. My birthday had come around in March and when he asked me what I might like to have as a gift, I asked him for some landscaping. Specifically, a tree. We only have a few trees in our yard as it is, and some of them seem to be on their last leg. Last limb?

So after careful consideration, I chose a fig tree. A beautiful, bushy fig tree with big broad leaves.

We did the research about where was the best place to plant such a tree and watched a bunch of YouTube videos on hole digging and soil prep, planting techniques and fig tree care.

Then, on a sunny day at the beginning of last summer, my husband planted our new tree in the front yard. He bought special organic soil and fertilizer. He painstakingly weeded and applied mulch around the tree. We christened it Miss Figgins and began trying to care for our newest addition.

Summer 2016 was a scorcher in East Tennessee. We experienced a drought that stretched on and on, creating the dry conditions that ultimately helped the November wildfires spread quickly through the Smokies.

All summer long and into fall, my husband and I took turns watering Miss Figgins. We saw her droop and drop a few leaves but through it all I held out hope that she'd make it. We never stopped believing that one day, we'd have a ginormous fig tree in our yard that we planted during the first full summer we lived in our first house together.

A few weeks ago, I was walking around our yard taking inventory of different things. Our handful of buttercups along the back fence had already bloomed and withered, but our monkey grass by the basement door was coming in. As I rounded the corner of our backyard to come up the hill toward the front, I spotted the fig tree. From a distance, it looked brown and small. There were no leaves at all and upon closer inspection, I saw no buds forming either. I broke off the end of a small branch and instead of it being springy and green inside, it was brown and brittle.

I knew right away that Miss Figgins had not survived. Later that night, I broke the news to my husband. He said that he already knew, but was trying to figure out a way to tell me. We both said it was a shame, but life goes on.

Today is Good Friday. My husband had the day off so he decided to mow our yard. After he had finished, we were eating some lunch when he mentioned offhandedly that he had gone ahead and mowed down what was left of the fig tree.

This news hit me square in the feels and out of nowhere I burst into tears. I don't know if it was because of the finality of it or the fact that holidays can sometimes bring deeply buried issues bubbling to the surface. But I wept and wept for Miss Figgins.

Even now as I type this a few hours later, I could still just bawl. I know it's just a tree. It's not really the tree I'm sad about.

Easter is a special day for Christians. It's a day that symbolizes a hope we have in the possibility of new life. And as a believer, I hold firmly to that possibility. It's not just a nice idea, but something that has truly become real to me because of my belief.

But not everything gets to live. Not every relationship gets to thrive, no matter how much painstaking effort we might pour into it. All the tending in the world might not have kept our fig tree alive. There were other conditions and factors totally out of our control that played a big part in her demise. It's a helpless feeling though. And if you've ever felt this way about a person you love or a relationship you treasured, you  know that it's leagues beyond how one might feel about a tree.

Sometimes, no matter how hard we try to keep it away, death still comes. The death of an identity you had always clung to. The death of a relationship you thought completely defined you. The death of an idea or a belief system that you had always marched under the banner of.

Letting go is hard. Admitting defeat even more so. There's part of me that would have enjoyed trying to bring Miss Figgins back. But how long could that have gone on? And how frustrating might it have been? Sometimes we just have to admit that a loss has occurred and try to move pas it.

And in the meantime, those of us who want to can keep holding tight to the belief that death is not always the end, but just a new beginning.