May 17, 2012

We can learn a lot from a tree

Deuth,-Dave-colorBy David W. Deuth, CFSP
President, Weerts Funeral Home

Amid the monuments and the towering mature trees along a pleasant knoll at Oakdale Memorial Gardens, I had the privilege to share a few words with the family at a recent graveside service. The setting was beautiful.

Nearby, an age-old oak tree towered over us. Everyone was standing beneath the canopy of its sprawling branches; its leaves were beginning to sprout and bloom. The backdrop was perfect.

The tree, I suggested, was the product of a seed, dormant when planted, but nurtured to life with the proper environment and care. Once planted in the soil, the seed had the opportunity to come to life and, over time, grew into something many times larger than itself.

But, a seed requires more than just the soil to grow and thrive. It needs the warmth and the light of the sun to cause the soil to become the perfect environment to grow the seed and to synthesize its nutrients. And it requires the nourishment of the rains to keep the soil moist and to bring water and nutrients into the plant. Indeed, all these things are required for seeds to thrive and grow.

And yet there is one more critical element that gives a seed the very best chance to grow and thrive: it is the gardener who tends to the seed after it is planted, making certain that it receives everything it needs, in proper proportions, to grow. And as the seedling grows, the good gardener continues to tend to the ground and its growing plant, fertilizing the ground, removing the weeds and pruning the branches as necessary to provide for the optimum growth, strength and support of the growing tree.

And so it is that each of us has ample opportunity, throughout our lifetimes, to plant “seeds” in the lives of others. As we nurture those seeds with the sunshine of friendship and the nourishing rains of love, along with careful tending and occasional pruning, we can “grow” meaningful relationships that, over time, make the meaning of our lives many times larger than ourselves.

Thus, we all have choices to make. We must decide to receive the seeds offered by others, for they are dormant unless we plant them and nourish them with friendship and love. And then we must also choose to plant our own seeds of love and friendship in others, giving them opportunity to plant, nourish, tend and prune. As we do, our circle of love and friendship grows, which also makes the meaning of our lives become many times larger than ourselves.

This is why funerals and visitations and gatherings are so meaningful and helpful when someone has died: because we all plant seeds in the lives of others – even as they have planted seeds in us. And we must acknowledge this in meaningful ways so to honor their life, and the seeds of love and friendship they have both offered and planted. And we must also salve the pruning we experience in our own lives as we acknowledge and experience the loss of their physical presence and fellowship among us.

Perhaps the most important thing to realize about the seed is this: although capable, it would never have the opportunity to produce the tree if it was never planted…which means that it would never have the opportunity to become anything larger than itself.

Yes, we can learn a lot from a tree. And its comparatively small seeds.

Remember Well.