Goodbye My Old Friend

I have this notebook where I like to doodle little watercolorings and write my thoughts. Think of it as a visual journal. Flipping through it, I found a page from last spring. On this page of my journal is a watercolor of my old ash tree and I want to share with you the words that I wrote:

“There is an enormous tree in my back yard. It has to be 100 years old. Just from looking at it, you can tell that it’s lived a long life. You can see big scars from where limbs have broken off over the years. There are gaping holes where entire ecosystems of birds and bugs live. This tree has certainly seen better days, but every spring it sprouts right back to life – despite the scars. Despite the hardship.

I wonder if when I am old and grey, I will feel a kinship to this tree. Evidence of a hard, tumultuous life is all around me but despite it all, I am able to live. Despite it all I will continue to grow.

I imagine I wont be much to look at, but I’ll have a great story to tell.”

May 2, 2020

I’ve felt a connection to that tree for a long time. I’ve been in awe of and inspired by her for years. And this week I had to say goodbye.

I knew she was sick quickly after moving into the house, but I put off the inevitable decision of taking her down for five years. Partially because of the expense and partially because I just couldn’t say goodbye. She would drop limbs, she would creek in the wind – in these ways she was telling me that she wasn’t long for this world but I just couldn’t let go.

Eventually, I pulled the bandaid off and I made some phone calls. On Tuesday a team of men came out and tore her down. I painfully watched the whole thing – much of it through tears. And then the trunk was removed. All 3,000 pounds of 100 year old ash tree trunk. As the crane was lifting the torso of my old friend, she split. She split perfectly in half. And that’s when I learned the depth of her illness. I’ve known she was sick but I had no idea the extent of it. Seeing the ease at which that trunk separated revealed the miracle and the true strength of my old tree.

She should have fallen down years ago. She had every opportunity to let go of her life. But she never did. She stayed tall. She fought through unbelievable circumstances and now she gets to rest. I felt like I was cutting her incredible life short, but after discovering what was always lying under her surface, I now know that I’ve given her permission to let go. Now she gets to be soil for another tree that can grow big and tall. Now she gets to use her strength to strengthen something else. Her circle of life will continue on. And while that life will not be in my back yard anymore, I get to share her with countless others.

I’ll miss my old friend but I cherish her legacy and her story.

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