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Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Old Oak Tree

There is a huge old Oak Tree at the bottom of the hill on our lot. That tree shades the playset dad put in for Evelyn. It is the same playset where he built her the sandbox. The tree uses two of it's branches to hold her swings (which dad would rotate out since he had bought her so many. . .there is a green swing, and a red swing, and a tire swing, a horse swing, and a car swing). And that tree standing some 100 ft high and is covered top to bottom in Christmas lights. Friends, and strangers, were kind enough to come out to my house to remove the rest of the lights, but there was just no attempting taking the lights from the Oak Tree. No one is quite sure, since Matt worked on the old Oak alone, whether or not he used harnesses or ladders or just climbed around up there like a monkey, but whatever the case he didn't leave an easy project for us to clean up behind. A Christmas light contractor came out to the property to assess, and after some expletives, explained he thought it would take 3 or 4 of his men 3 or 4 hours to take those lights down. He explained he owns a truck similar to that of a firetruck with a 55ft ladder that he thought still would not reach the parts of the tree that it was apparent Matt was climbing (since he had so delicately placed each candy cane upon the branches). When Matt had told me once in November the fire department had been called out because someone thought he was stuck in that tree I had laughed, not quite understanding the person calling was probably making a wise decision.

I think of that tree as our Oak Tree. It's branches are wide, and long. They curve and twist. It's leaves are beautiful, and stay on longer then any other leaves in the yard. And when those leaves fall, they provide a mountain of fun for the kids. I will miss that tree when we move. Matt had always hoped to build Evelyn a tree fort in that tree, and I know he would have. Over the last week that tree and I have begun to identify with one another. God continues to draw my eyes to it. Nudging me to take time to slow down, take time to reflect.

I sort of feel like that tree. Like there are these branches inside me stretching out, reaching to the end of my appendages. Each one different, each one representing a different emotion, or memory. I am filling up with these branches and it isn't easy on me. Those branches growing within me are changing who I am.

One of those branches I've become aware of is joy. It's as time passes I am slowly beginning to find joy again; mostly in my children. Not that there was a time when they didn't bring me joy, but there may have been moments the anxiety of motherhood outweighed that of joy. Moments where looking at them and knowing they will remember little, or nothing of their father was too heart breaking to bear. Moments I don't think I will be able to do this alone. But lately I have seconds where that anxiety gets pushed aside, and I can look into my children's eyes and find joy in knowing that our family is still together.

Another branch that has been poking and prodding the deepest parts of me is sadness. The newness of what has happened is over. The mind game of whether or not Matt is on vacation has been played out, and in it's place is a deep deep sadness. I miss him everywhere I turn. It isn't the sadness I had right after it happened, in those moments I would stumble upon where he laid the night the ambulance showed up and topple over in agony, this sadness is sneakier. It is the kind that happens at the dinner table. Evelyn and I sitting there eating, completely aware and saddened by the person missing from the table. It's in our bed, laying reading a book, and longingly watching the door to our room, hoping I will see him pop in to give me a good night kiss. In the evenings, when I'm desperate to put everything aside and spend time with the kids, and simply cannot because of all the things that need to be done or just the inability to clear my head. In those moments it's the sadness of remembering evenings we spent together before he left us, all playing and laughing.

Oh, how the pain is increasing lately.

There is another branch that I can't yet name. I fear it though. I felt such an overwhelming peace and calm in the first moments after Matt's death. Comfort in my Savior's arms. And although I know He still holds me, although I know He is weeping with me, I'm beginning to feel lost. After you stop trying to ask why, stop trying to understand, something gets filled into that spot. Not quite anger, not quite hopelessness, not quite bitterness. . .and although I can not name it, I know it is ugly, I know it is not a friend, and I know I must fight against it. My fear is I don't have the will to try.

So when that twisted twig nudges my heart again I will find shelter here:

Exodus 14:14 "The Lord will fight for you, you need only to be still."


Kelsey C said...

Steph, your writing and the way you have with words just astonishes me. The verse you picked at the end stuck out to me and I realized it's one I really need to take to heart. I can totally identify with that "twig" and have the same fears you do as to whether or not I can put up the fight. I struggle with anxiety and depression, as well as immensely with my faith, and am only recently learning how difficult this struggle will be for me. Another verse that gives me comfort is Philliapians 4:13~ "I can do anything through Christ who gives me strength." There are always moments when it all seems lost, especially with our faith, but little reminders can make a huge difference. My heart goes out to you and Evelyn and Isaac during this time; I miss seeing you guys at church! You're always in my prayers! :)

Anonymous said...

My heart breaks for you and for your struggle coming to terms with this loss. Things will get messy for awhile. One day your heart will sing and dance again.
I will be praying. Love and hugs,
A sister in the in the Lord...

A Young Widow's Rant said...


You are in my prayers as well. I know you've had struggles, and I'm keeping you in my heart! Keep reading those important life verses until they make sense and are deep rooted. Love you!


Michelle said...


We have not met. I went to H.S. with Matty and when we connected on FB a few years ago, he loved to talk about his family. I enjoyed seeing him in his new "role," his new adventure. He was one to always love a good adventure.

Your ability to capture what is real and true in your heart is inspiring. With your openness to accept all things (good, bad, happy, sad) you will survive...and moreso...YOU WILL THRIVE. Your love for the Lord is amazing...and will be your biggest help/guide. In Him, all things are found...all things are made.

I have thought of you (and Matt) many times over the last many months...struggling to "guess" how you must be feeling or how you are doing. I have two children and though I know that through strength in one, comes strength in many, I sincerely question what my abilities would be in ensuring that my children saw "strength" from their mom. Listening to your inner strength gives me comfort that even when you feel hopeless, the hope for your children always shines through.

You are a blessing to your children...and I will continue to send prayers and blessings to you and your family.

"May God keep you safe, happy, healthy, free from all harm, free from all evil...and always in his blessings." -the prayer my son and I say together every night.


Michelle DuFour