Huge tables covered with petunias enchanted me. Bowers of begonias beckoned for attention. Golden marigolds nodded modestly in the spring breeze. All the flowers looked beautiful, but something held me back from buying. I wandered to the backside of the nursery area where a line of potted trees caught my eye.
I thought of the ancient trees along the driveway in my yard at home. It would be nice if I had a young tree growing when it was time for the old trees to come down. The tag on a healthy little maple tree about my height proclaimed, “Sunset Maple. This tree will give you a bright splash of color in your yard every fall.”
Visiting temporary plant nurseries that pop up at local stores each spring is fun. A quick detour while buying a new tube of toothpaste often results in having beautiful flowers to plant at my back door. Special treats like these are enjoyed an entire summer.
The day I bought the maple tree, I didn’t know what I was looking for, but knew that when I saw it, I NEEDED a maple tree to brighten my yard.
The potted maple tree had to wait several days to be planted. My husband Arnie was busy running his business. I didn’t think I could dig a big enough hole alone. He finally took the time to do the job on a Sunday afternoon while my married daughter, Niki and her husband Mike were visiting with their young children, Anne, Jon and Claire.
“Where do you want me to plant it?” Arnie asked.
I said, “Put it in the middle of the new lawn between the top driveway and the lower one. I’ll be able to see it from the kitchen windows.”
The fall of 2004, my little maple stayed green when the other trees changed color. Eventually the leaves turned a drab, olive-orange before falling. I said to the family, “It’s just a baby yet. Maybe when the roots get better established, it’ll be more colorful.”
In the fall of 2005, the tree did the same thing. Still defending it, I said, “It is still a baby tree. Maybe it’ll be prettier next year.” When the now rapidly growing tree had no more color in the fall of 2006, I finally admitted to my husband, “I think the tree is a dud for color. That’s so sad. All I wanted was pretty fall leaves to see from my kitchen windows.”
My 56 year old husband died suddenly and unexpectedly of a blood clot in the spring of 2007. In my grieving, I wondered about life beyond this life. I desperately wanted to talk to Arnie. I wanted to know where he was and if he was happy. Conversations with him were entirely too one-sided now that he was gone from my world.
One day while talking to my daughter Tammie, I said, “I seldom ask for signs, but I wish the Lord would grant me a gift which would tell me that Arnie was all right and happy. If the leaves on that dull old maple tree were bright this fall, I’d know that all was right with your Daddy.”
The leaves of the maple tree continued to be dull in the falls of 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011. Then, in the fall of 2012, I was amazed and overjoyed when the leaves of the maple tree blazed into the most amazing color I’ve ever seen. The tree seemed to glow. I took picture after picture of it. When the leaves fell, I gathered the crisp bits of color and buried them in my garden.
Expecting the tree to be bright and colorful again in the fall of 2013, I was disappointed. The same was true in the fall in 2014. Why wasn’t my Sunset Maple continuing to blaze into color each autumn?
In the spring of 2015 my son-in-law died instantly when a deer crashed through the windshield of his van as he was driving my laboring daughter to the hospital to have their eighth child.
I find myself deep in grief once again. This time I have lost a child that I’d adopted though marriage, respected and loved. It is a grief tied closely to the grief of my own widowhood. Even worse, it is a grief that cuts deeply into my heart each time I see my daughter’s pain.
Again, I talk to my Lord, asking where Mike is, asking if he is happy and in a good place. One day this summer I stood in my kitchen looking out a window at my now large Sunset maple tree. I thought, “I wish the Lord would grant me the gift of knowing that Mike was all right and in a good place. I wish He would allow the maple leaves to be bright once again.
It is now fall. The leaves on the other trees are slowly changing. I’m waiting, watching and praying for the maple to once again announce the salvation of a much loved man.