Trees: On My Father’s Death

Things never happen the same way twice. – C.S. Lewis.

I have always imagined that I stood in that forest in the Chronicles of Narnia when the trees swayed, not because of the wind, but because they were alive. I longed for the dryads to come to greet me and the windless woods to erupt with movement, awakening.

It was July 26 before the sun rose and before the rustling trees could be seen by human eyes. Lights flickered in the house on the side of a mountain.

My father was dragged to the floor in one of the rooms in that house. His arms rose slightly and stiffly like branches on a tree. Vines wrapped around his arms as Char pressed her lips to his mouth. Breathe. Breathe. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Bill pressed on his trunk.

He was planted in the ground on a Friday, wood buried in the earth so life can start again.

“Please dad. Don’t leave us!” they cried out. They grabbed at his feet while the nearby mountains were just awaking from slumber.

I slept in Florida.

It’s a beautiful day in Colorado,” my mother wept to me on the phone. “Your dad is hugging you right now.

I checked my voicemail. Did I save that message he left for me? I wanted to hear him one more time.

On Friday I stood over his grave as his friends descended from the tops of hills and the unpaved lanes on which they drove the processional of cars. Every direction I looked, black dresses and suits were arriving. 1,2,3,…50…80… 100… They stepped into the sunlight from the shadows of the trees that had been growing in the cemetery for over a century. Waves of friends, water to ease the loneliness of death and pain.

Ashes to ashes, they wanted to comfort. I wanted to throw myself on top of his grave- the last family gathering.

I hugged his coffin with my head next to the thornless roses. There will always be one person missing, always until we become great oaks and we meet on the golden streets.

Rick, Steve, Gene, Dan and Bill smoked cigars on our front porch after his death.  They wouldn’t talk while I was there. They stared at nothing and I made the rounds of a nurse.

On the day my father died I caught a flight to Indiana. The attendant walked the aisle with carrots in her hand. I hate carrots so I asked for a bag. I should get used to doing things I don’t want to do. I ate every last carrot, like a rabbit sitting under a tree.

Nothing happens the same way twice. Nothing happens the same way twice, I told myself.

The Great Man hung on a tree. Vines wrapped around his bloody arms.

Breathe. Breathe.

He was planted in the ground on a Friday. It was a Sunday when the tree sprouted from the roots that had been growing before mother earth had a thought in her head. The leaves rustled in the windless world.

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