My husband’s father is reaching the end of his run and it has offered us a whole different way in which to consider living in this world. My partner is quietly processing this next stage of life while I stand by, not so quiet, ready if needed with food; coffee or gin; a shoulder or embrace. The process must be with me even as I sleep because I woke this morning needing to write immediately. Here is what came of it.
This morning I woke with a strange yet pleasing thought: when I die plant a tree not a headstone. My tree would offer a most pleasant place for you to come visit me. That tree and me will be one. My limbs will be stretched out in greeting as you approach. Lift your children up into my arms for a hug and I’ll give you a break from minding them. Children always love a view from above. Think of the time your favorite adult swung you up on to their shoulders, you breathless with the new-found height and a view wider than the people below you.
We’ll share a picnic in the shade. I always have loved to have people over for dinner. If it is spring we’ll admire the blossoms my branches have produced just as we used to walk the edges of my garden at home to see what was growing. If it is fall, pick an apple. It’s what I brought for dessert. Still a good cook! And if it rains, not to worry, my sheltering arms are still there to take you in from the weather.
Maybe another will choose a tree not a stone for their memorial? If they plant their tree next to mine we’ll stand together, enjoying the changing seasons. Eventually we’ll grow so tall and strong, our spreading limbs linked as arms, hand in hand. In our companionship we’ll take a stand for fresh air, exchanging carbon dioxide for oxygen. We’ll create essential habitat for things that crawl, climb and fly.
Plant me by a stream and I’ll shade the riffles and pools that wild salmon seek to spawn their young. They need cool water to be successful in their life’s work of creating the next generation. And I’ll get to see the salmon every year when they return much the same as when I went to sea each year to catch them. How right I should become a tree as my fishing boat is made of wood.
As a fisherman salmon is a constant on my dinner table. In my life as a tree those salmon will still nourish me in their death. My roots will absorb the nutrition they selflessly share. The powerful stuff will travel upward though my trunk to the greenness of leaves rather than the top down human system of feeding, mouth to body. Salmon will still be my favorite food. When I pass plant a tree so that even in death I can choose life. Join me and we’ll become a forest.