There is a pile of wooden shards in a nest of sawdust that I have dragged with me since childhood. Many, many years ago it was a tree that held a wooden plank swing. Long thick, scratchy ropes were knotted to a high branch and a swing was made for all the children.
Being the oldest I pushed many a cousin on that swing. It was there that my little, five year old cousin Bert, came to find me after a strong paddling from his father. Bert crawled into my lap and I held him close and we swung higher and higher as I sang into his ear until he laughed.
Even though you are in heaven now, I know you remember, Bert.
A black stormy night of angry wind took our swinging tree down. In fact, the sound of many trees cracking and falling assaulted our ears as we huddled and prayed in our cozy stone cottage. The next morning we discovered the miracle of our protection as so many aunts, uncles and cousins tiptoed outside into the silence.
Oh no! Amid all the carnage, even smashed cars, all my heart and eyes saw was the demolition of the swinging tree. Despite his own distress my dad heard the heartbreak of his daughter. Mountains of work lay ahead of him to cut and clear away the trees and deal with insurance. Yet my dad dried my tears by offering me a stump. This piece of stump was 2 ½ feet tall by 2 feet in diameter of golden oak. It came home with us that weekend. Somehow seven people and their stuff and a tree trunk all made it into that car!
I grew up with that stump ever near, even bringing it with me to college, where it was used as a communion table for dorm masses. It moved from apartment to apartment where young men were willing to be part of the story. It came to homes where it was an end table until it became a permanent fixture in my current garden holding many a flowerpot. Weathering took its toll, so pretty flowers were planted right into our stump where the roots ofthe blooms are nourished by its strength.
Watching it crumble to return to the earth makes me weep and smile with gratitude.
Christine Hlinak is a retired school teacher and a retired spiritual director, a grandma who is deeply in love with her grandchildren. “Being very interested in writing and painting, I feel I am at a crossroads and God is prompting me to express my spirituality in new ways.”