I have one memory of a house covered in a warm blanket of snow. It’s a short clip of time, maybe thirty seconds, and all I see is the old townhouse and playing in front of it in the snow, looking around and just seeing everything covered in snow and looking happy and magical.
It was after the Tree was cut down. I miss that tree. That must’ve been how my parents explained death to me, because I remember understanding it when I was five and Harry Potter’s parents were killed. The Tree was sick, my mom said, and it had to be cut down.
How could a tree get sick, I wondered. Trees are… well, they’re trees! They’re big, bold, beautiful. I thought of the Tree as family; she was my guardian angel. The Giving Tree hit home.
The Tree was sick, my mom said, and it couldn’t get any better. Later on, when I was much older, she told me that it was dangerous for there to be a dead tree, especially such a large one, in the front yard of the house where little kids would run around and play. The Tree was sick, and it had to be cut down.
But it’ll grow back, right? Like the Tulips every spring?
Not so much, kiddo. The Tree is going away forever. It’s hurting really badly and it’s going to go to tree-heaven.
I cried over that tree.
My next experience with death was the cat who slept with me in my cradle. His name was Fred. Fred went to kitty-heaven, my mom said. And soon after, Red the Dog joined him in doggie-heaven.
I said, I hope that Fred and Red have each other. Otherwise they’ll be really lonely until I can play with them again.
I secretly hoped the Tree would be there for them, so Fred could climb and Red could sleep in the shade. The Tree would be there for them too, I was sure.
But then Grandma Helen died, and things were different. Mommy cried and I didn’t know what to do but listen. I suppose I still don’t know what to do for people but listen.
It was around that time I have my next clear memory of snow. It was months later, Hanukkah time, and the Ice Storm hit.
It was awful. Gone was the magic of the snow that blanketed the yard my Tree was sovereign in and here was the Curse of the Cold. Ice attacked the House. We had no power for days.
I was young, didn’t fully understand what was going on. At first, it felt like one big party. We slept in the basement, all huddled under the same blankets, and drank hot chocolate from the fireplace.
There was no Tree to watch over us though, and people were hurt. The cold was bitter. I wasn’t allowed to go out for too long, we didn’t want to open the door too often and let the cold in. I thought about Fred and Red in the backyard, and hoped they were warm in heaven.
I thought about Grandma Helen and hoped she and Grandpa Al were dancing in the moonlight under the Tree.
I mean, the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon, right? And the man on the moon’s watching over little boy blue, right? But then why did the Tree have to be cut down?
Because, kiddo. Sometimes, things hurt. Sometimes, things hurt really badly, so badly that you need it to stop and you can’t think of anything else but not hurting anymore and its sucks, honey, it really does, but sometimes things hurt. And when they hurt badly, we have to understand it’s time to say goodbye. The Tree and Grandma Helen and Fred and Red need us to watch over them, this time. Sometimes, things hurt and we become the Tree.
And now in heaven, it’s snowing and they’re watching over you again, thankful you said goodbye.