LIFE GOES ON
This story is dedicated to my brothers Tim
and Gene, and to my sisters Mary, Eunice,
Martha and Sally.
Virginia stopped pulling weeds from the flower bed to wipe the sweat from her brow. As she looked around the backyard, the big oak tree beckoned her to come and sit in the shade. “Not just yet,” she said aloud. “I have to finish with these weeds.” Virginia laid the towel down and took a long drink of ice water from the large glass that was sitting on the back porch. Again she looked at the tree with it’s cool shade, then went back to her task of weeding the flower bed. It wasn’t the work that bothered Virginia about pulling weeds from the flower bed. But the killing of living things.
When she was a little girl her Grandpa had talked to her about Nature. He had explained to her how some things must die so that others can live. And the weeds were taking moisture and nutrients from the flowers. Soon the weeds were gone and the flowers were free to grow and blossom.
Virginia wiped off the sweat again and drank the remaining water from the glass. She walked into the house and filled the glass with ice and water. Then she headed straight for the shade under the big oak tree. When she got to the tree, Virginia sat down on the bench that her daughter had helped her place in just the right spot to get the benefit from the most shade when the day was the hottest. Virginia sipped on the water and glanced around the large backyard which was filled with other trees. Her Grandpa had planted all the trees, except for the pecan trees in the front yard. The other trees in the yard were mostly fruit trees. There were apples, peaches, plums, apricots and a few scattered mulberries, oaks and walnuts. A lot of the fruit trees were in bad shape now with their dead and broken limbs. Some of the trees were dead. Time had taken its toll. This tree, the tree that Virginia was sitting under, seemed to thrive. It was bigger and greener than the other trees in the yard. Her “Poppy”, as she used to call her Grandpa, had planted this tree as he did with all the others. Her Mother had told her that this was a very special tree, and that her Grandpa had taken very special care of it. As Virginia was sitting there in the shade enjoying the cool breeze, it almost seemed as if in the rustle of the leaves, the tree was talking to her.
After her Grandma had passed away, Virginia and her daughter had moved into her grandparents old house. Her Grandpa had passed away when she was just a little girl. She had always enjoyed visiting with “Nanna” and “Poppy”. Her Grandma would give her cookies, play games with her and read her stories. Her Grandpa would let her help him in the garden, pick fruit from the trees and tell her stories.
The sound of the school bus stopping at the end of the driveway brought Virginia back to reality. She didn’t get up as her daughter came running up the driveway. She knew that her daughter would come straight to the tree. “Hi, Mommy,” she said as she sat down on the bench next to her mother. “Why do you spend so much time out here with this tree?” Virginia was silent for a little while, then replied, “I guess you’re old enough now, so I’m going to tell you a story.” “When my Grandpa passed away, he left a letter to be read after his death. Your Grandma read it to me.”
“When Grandpa’s mother passed away, she was cremated. Grandpa didn’t like the idea of cremation. But it was his mother’s wishes, so he kept quiet Grandpa and his brothers and sisters were to scatter the ashes of their mother on the grave of her grandson. One by one they slowly reached into the box and took out a handful of their mother’s ashes and scattered them over the grave. All except Grandpa. He just pretended to scatter the ashes. Instead, he put them in the pants pocket of his suit.
Later that afternoon, after Grandma and Grandpa got home, Grandpa went straight to this tree. He sat down on the ground and pulled all the grass and weeds up from around the tree. Then he reached into his pocket and took the handful of his mother’s ashes and placed them very carefully around the little tree. After that, he took his pocket knife and worked them into the soil. As he was standing there saying a small prayer, he watered the tree with the tears that were falling from his eyes.
Grandpa never told anyone what he had done, except Grandma. So this tree was very special to my Grandpa. And it’s become very special to me. If Grandpa was right, your Great, Great Grandma lives on in this tree.”
Floyd Herbert Smith, Jr.