Planting Hope

I received ten flowering trees yesterday that the Arbor Day Foundation gifted me when I sent a donation. (It wasn’t really a donation, because I only sent the money to get the trees.) If you have ever responded to such an offer, you will understand the irony of the term “tree.” These seedlings might someday be trees, might even be the beginning of a small forest in my yard, but for now, they are nothing but skinny little twigs between six and twelve inches long with barely a growth that could be considered a root.

I’ve planted seedlings from the foundation before, and not one ever grew to babyhood, let alone achieved grown-up-tree status, but even knowing that, I sent the money. I figure I wasn’t out anything except my donation, and maybe not even that if the foundation really does plant trees with at least some of the money they receive.

Of course, these “trees” came when there is no way I would take a chance on injuring my knee further by digging holes, so I considered not planting them, but a teenager a few houses away agreed to do the work for me. That was a double blessing, not just because having someone else plant them saved my knee, but also perhaps because the trees will not immediately realize who their caregiver will be. And maybe, just maybe, when that realization dawns, one or two of them will decide they like it here anyway.

Even if none of the seedings live very long, it’s the thought that counts. Planting trees is like planting hope — hope for a future, and a more beautiful future at that.

And all of us right now can use a bit of hope.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

 

Building Hopes and Creating Dreams

And so ends the worst year of my life.

Last year was a time of soul-shattering loss, grief, and strange blessings. It was a time of despair and self-realization, transition and adjustment. But of course, you know all that — I’ve made no secret of my ordeal, chronicling every painful stage of my journey. Many people endure worse traumas than the death of a soul mate, and they continue living without whimpering, which has made me feel a bit self-indulgent and whiny with my grief bloggeries, yet that was never my intention. The impact of grief after a major loss seems to be one more thing that has been discounted in our discount culture, and I simply wanted to tell the truth.

Oddly, I still don’t know the truth of it. It seems unreal at times. Was I really that woman? That woman who watched a man slowly die, who wanted the suffering to end, yet whose love was so ineffectual she couldn’t make him well or take away a single moment of his pain? That woman so connected to another human being she still feels broken nine months after his death? That woman who screamed the pain of her loss to the winds?

I’ve always considered myself a passionless woman, so how can that woman be me? During periods when I don’t feel the weight of his absence (I never feel his presence, though sometimes his absence feels normal, as if he’s simply in another room), during periods of emotional calm, my stoic side rules, making my grief feel fake, as if it’s something I’m doing to make myself seem important. Yet other times the desperate need to go home to him, to see him one more time, claws at me, tearing me apart.

Making the situation even more unreal, I can barely remember what he looked like — I do not think in images, so it’s understandable (though distressing) that I have no clear image of him in my mind. Even worse, I don’t have a photo that matches what I remember of him. (The only one I have was taken fifteen years ago.)

Nor do I have a clear sense of time. Sometimes it feels as if he died just a couple of months ago. Sometimes it feels like years. The demarcation between our shared life and my solitary life was once so stark it was like the edge of a cliff. All I could see was the past and what I had lost. The living I have done in the past nine months has blurred that edge, adding to the sense of unreality.

I have learned much this year. I learned the importance of importance. If there is nothing of importance in your life, you have to find something and make it important. I learned the importance of goals, even if it’s only the goal of getting through one more day. I learned the importance of hope, though hope for what I still don’t know, but that is part of the journey – building hopes, creating dreams, finding reasons to live.

And so begins a new year.