That Blooming Tree

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That Blooming Tree



By Bart Sumner


David died almost 4½ years ago. After his death many people did many things to express their sorry and support for us. Some, like the hand print pendants we received from a friend, were unique and something I had not seen before. They seemed very special and in fact I still carry mine, attached to my house and car keys. It goes with me everywhere and I rub it often with my thumb and think of my boy. David’s elementary school was devastated by David’s loss, and they too wanted to mark his passing in a way that would be special. They decided to plant a tree and put a plaque up in his honor. It was a nice idea. Of course, school districts being what they are, for some administrative reason they could not get clearance to erect the plaque, but they purchased a wonderful little tree that bloomed in lovely purple/pink blossoms and sprouted deep purple leaves. They got clearance and had a nice tree planting ceremony with his classmates and dedicated the tree to him. My wife and daughter and I attended the morning, and took pictures and it was nice.

Now, I have pledged to be completely honest on these pages, so in that spirit I must confess that though I loved the gesture, and loved that they wanted to honor my son, there was a part of me that recognized that the whole tree planting thing seemed a bit clichéd. And before you go condemning me for being thankless, know that I also went out and bought the identical type of tree, an Eastern Redbud, and planted it in the front yard of our house, right by the street, so that David would be remembered both at school and at home with the same lovely tree. And even though part of me looked on the whole plant a tree thing as a bit clichéd I also will readily admit that I cared for that tree in our yard carefully to make sure it thrived and did not die. I even noticed one morning while dropping Abby off at school after the tree had first been planted that the tree at the school looked a bit dried out. I sent the principle an email telling her that I thought it might not be getting enough water. She went out and checked on the tree and agreed and made sure the groundskeeper kept it well watered until it had established itself. As time went forward both trees took to their locations well, and have grown strong in the years since they were planted. Our dear neighbor who still lives behind our old house occasionally snaps a picture of the tree in our front yard, showing us that the tree is sprouting it’s blossoms or leaves. It’s always nice to see, but I expect her do stuff like that, our families shared a great deal of happiness and loss together.

But today I got an email with a photo sent to me by the office manager of David’s old elementary school. It was of the tree planted at the school, full of the familiar pink/purple blossoms. Her short but welcome note that accompanied the photo said that the office staff around the school had been talking about David and our family recently because the tree was blooming so beautifully, and she wanted to share that. A warm glow came from deep inside as I scrolled down the email to the picture. Wow, the tree has grown a lot, and it is beautiful. But more touching than the lovely blossoms were her words that they had been speaking of David. His gentle soul and tender smile was being remembered fondly, and stories of the happy little boy that never had a problem moment with anyone were being exchanged. Since time and people change, that meant that those who did not know him were now hearing of his life, his horrible loss, and the legacy he left behind. It brought tears to my eyes.

I have written of this before, but that’s all we really want; to have David remembered. If the universe had seen it fit to give him a long life, I would never have worried about others remembering him. But considering he had been cheated of that longevity, it is so very important to know that the short ten years he did spend with us are remembered. Recently others who knew him have told us how their sons who played football with him still remember, writing his #18 on there gear to remember the teammate who never gave up.

Sadly, here in our new home state of Michigan there have been several deaths of young people that have been in the news. One of my daughter’s classmates was recently taken by cancer. And if that wasn’t enough, one tragic loss in particular has brought back so many memories of our family’s loss. A hockey player in high school, who was a wonderfully well-rounded young man, a leader among his teammates and friends, died of an unknown heart condition in his sleep. There has been a huge outpouring for this young man. Teammates and opponents spontaneously honored him at a hockey game and students have been rallying around his life, all things done for David. It’s been very familiar and difficult to watch at times, and all I can imagine is the nightmare his family is going through.

I have no doubt that down the road so many of those now mourning will speak of these young people and remember them. I have no doubts that some will speak their names and a smile and parental satisfaction will come to their families knowing that they are being remembered. And though I admit I did not fully appreciate it when the gesture was first extended to our boy, perhaps they will be fortunate enough to have someone plant a tree in their name. A living, breathing thing of beauty that will grow and thrive, and that will remind those that knew their child that they were here, and though they are no longer physically present, their spirit survives and continues to inspire.

Come to think of it, the Eastern Redbud tree is actually better suited to growing in our current environment of Michigan than it was to Southern California. Once this record cold and snowy winter has cleared away this year, I now realize I have something to do I should have done when we first arrived. I need to plant a tree, an Eastern Redbud, someplace where it is easily seen from inside our home, so that every year as the spring brings life back to our new home, we can see it blossom, and remember our boy, and speak of him. Yeah, this whole plant a tree thing, though not exactly an original concept, may have its merits. Sometimes things are a cliché because they deserve to be.

Miss you David. Love never dies. Thank you Mrs. White.


Read more blog posts by Bart Sumner here:

Or check out his book on Amazon: 
Healing Improv: A Journey Through Grief to Laughter

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