The day after we laid our sweet baby Anna’s body in the cemetery next door to the parsonage where we live, a very kind family from our church, who owns a landscaping company, came to plant a tree in our front yard in her honor.
It was a very exciting event – especially for our four and six year old boys, who even got to sit in the cab of the tractor as the hole was dug for the tree. It was at least 20-feet tall: a crepe myrtle which, they told us, would bloom white in just a few weeks, as Spring arrived in all its beauty and promise of hope and renewal.
Garin, my husband, watered the tree every three days, just as they had instructed, and we watched for the first buds to give us a hint of the splendor that we would see, a monument of strength and beauty in honor of our precious baby girl.
But as the weeks passed, the tree didn’t bloom.
We watched the other crepe myrtles on the church grounds put forth their leaves, and then buds, and then tiny purple and pink and red flowers, and still Anna’s tree was bare.
When we received the call from the man who had planted it telling us that the tree apparently had not survived the most recent cold snap, I was heartbroken again.
I don’t know why it affected me so, but it did. Even the tree planted in her honor didn’t survive.
We did everything right. We watered each week. We kept the mulch around the base . . . but sometimes, even when you do everything right, the tree just doesn’t make it.
Our very kind friend said that he would come and take it down, and promised to come back in the fall and replace it with a new tree.
And so, one day when I arrived home from work, the tree was gone. Just like that, there was a hole in the ground, covered with a pile of dirt, empty again.
A few weeks later, I noticed that there was a little sprout of green, poking out of the dirt. It was small enough to be a weed, but maybe not.
And it grew. And grew.
I called Garin outside to look with me, and he said he knew that the man who removed the tree had left the roots.
Just the roots of that tree were left in the ground, but there was life growing, pushing up through the dirt and grass, stubbornly, persistently, refusing to be kept down.
In that moment, staring at that brave little tree, God reminded me of renewal and hope, and that though Anna is gone, she will always be with me, stubbornly, persistently.
And that even when my heart is breaking, life is still all around me, full of hope and wonder and beauty.
And I will always think of these things when I think of my sweet baby Anna.
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases, and mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:21-23
Rachel Hunt Hill is a ministry-mom and Board Certified Chaplain. She currently serves with Hospice of Cleveland County.