The old oak tree sits silently and serenely overlooking our large field, majestic and beautiful in design and shape. Thousands of times my mom would look out the kitchen window while washing dishes, observing the oak and smiling. Mom loved this tree. It symbolized to her beauty and truth, a solid anchor in her life taking care of a hard-working husband and five active kids in a small, three-bedroom and one bathroom house in the Ozarks.
As a child, I remember when we owned cattle. They would gather under the big tree on hot summer days and cold, snowy nights. The tree provided shade and shelter, comfort, and peace. The tree also provided countless acorns. We would use the acorn shells to pitch to each other. My brother Mike could make the shells curve in any direction.
But we all knew the tree was Mom’s tree. She loved watching the birds flutter in and out of the tree like a ballet troupe synchronized and poetic. She loved seeing the limbs of the tree dance fluidly on warm and windy days. She loved observing on autumn days the bountiful color of leaves exploding as the sun rose gracefully from behind, illuminating the yellows, reds and orange in a good morning welcome. And she loved showing us kids after a fresh snowfall her beloved friend encased in winter, branches to the end painted artistically in white.
I can still hear her singing while staring at the tree, her worn hands washing the dishes. Her favorite song was Wildwood Flower by The Carter Family. Sometimes she hummed the tune quietly, but other times, especially glorious mornings, she would sing out loud, smiling at her tree friend and the distant hills of the Ozarks.
When my family moved back to the area 21 years ago, we decided to build our house on the land I grew up in, only about 50 yards from Mom’s tree. The tree became a window from the home I grew up to the home I now resided, raising my own family. In spring and summer, the leaves of the tree provided a partial privacy fence as Mom looked daily to see what we were doing. I still remember her calls in the morning asking me why I was up so late the night before, or who was at our house! How I miss those calls.
I often joked with Mom that if I could cut the tree down it would provide wood for my fireplace for five years. “Don’t you dare!” she would say. I wouldn’t dream of cutting the tree down. I had grown to love the old friend as well.
Mom passed from this world to the next over 10 years ago. My Dad joined her two years ago. The tree still stands, a gentle and daily reminder of Mom and her consistent love and devotion to us, her kids. I stood and stared at the tree the other day, observing its large base, its many huge limbs stretching out horizontally, the broad, green leaves fluttering in the breeze. I observed the dramatic difference in temperature under its broad shade. I imagined under the ground the deep and wide root system that anchored the tree and brought it sustenance and life.
Mom was like that tree. She was the large base in our kids’ lives. She was the consistent constant of love, care and devotion. Her steady influence, her deep wisdom and quick wit…her amazing cooking skills and friendship to other family and neighbors, allowed her influence to branch out into our lives.
And her root system. She didn’t vocalize her faith often, but it was there, deep and penetrating. While sick and shortly before her death, Mom told me on a few occasions that she was putting her life in God’s hands. I’m so thankful for a mom who taught us kids how to respect and love others, how to always do your best, and how to live in honesty and integrity each day.
As I look at my own life today, I realize that part of my root system is my mom. She has provided a rich and deep anchor in my life when frequent storms hit. Her words of wisdom echo up the roots to my base and, hopefully, out to my own limbs of influence—my kids, grandkids, friends, and every other person each day God puts in my path. I pray that my life may be like this wonderful oak tree, broad and rich, anchored in Christ and His Love.
And my mother’s love.