Family NaBloPoMo Photography

A Beautiful Heart Among the Broken Ones

“I need a spade. Or a shovel. Or something. To dig with, you know.” I stood in my parent’s garage, looking at the faded red toolbox absentmindedly.

“Well, the last time I needed a shovel to remove the dead rabbit from the front sidewalk, I got it out of the back shed,” replied my husband. Because dead rabbits on sidewalks happen in the country.

We walked out back to the shed, turned the little knob, and the smell of plywood and earth and memories of sweltering hot days spent using the shed as a playhouse before my father and grandfather built me a playhouse on stilts washed over me, took my breath away, left me speechless in the cool, November air. My husband grabbed a shovel, and I locked the little door behind us, shutting everything behind me that was too much to feel.

We walked in silence down the hill, past the home of my maternal grandmother who just died two days ago; down the hollow between the two properties; across the driveway and up the hill onto the property of my paternal grandmother who passed away in June. The sign at the end of the road reads “Under Contract,” but it may as well read, “Killing Jenna.”

We walked, our feet crunching through the leaves—mostly brown now, sodden with the rains we’ve endured the past few days, but a few yellow leaves poking through here and there. My new grief boots—the boots I bought myself upon the death of my maternal grandmother in some false attempt to make myself feel better—looked lovely as the fall tones meshed together.

Grief Boots

Eventually we found ourselves standing in front of the tree. My tree. I’ve written of my tree before, but I fear this may be the last time I write of the tree that my paternal grandfather planted for me when I was just two-years-old. The little seedling stood barely taller than me at the time, and oh, I loved my tree.

My Tree

She grew and grew and grew. She grew to be one of the most beautiful, one of the biggest trees on The Farm.

But now that part of The Farm is set to sell next Friday. Gone. Out of our family. Forever. For good. Gone.

The grief I feel about losing the tree, losing that portion of The Farm, losing my paternal and maternal grandmothers in such quick succession feels like a giant boulder on my chest. Often days I feel as if I can’t breathe because the weight of it all is too much. And yes, it’s only been four months and one day for one, two days for the other, but, oh, I don’t know how to come back from this, how to wake up tomorrow and the next day and the next day and the next day and just keep breathing.

But I do.

The last time I wrote about my tree, an old friend suggested that I write a note and bury it next to my tree. And so we found ourselves standing in front of my giant, now leaf-less tree, my heart exploding with sadness and memory, with love and loss. And there, and there in the bark of the tree I spent so much time with, so much time under, so much time around, is a heart shaped knot. Never noticed, never pointed out. Just now seen, today. A heart. A beautiful heart among all of our broken ones.

A Heart in My Tree

I put my hand the the knotted heart, closed my eyes, and said goodbye.

Through tears, I pointed to a spot and set my husband about digging a hole. I could have done it alone, I suppose, but these are the darkest days, the hardest days, during which I don’t want to be alone. He jumped on the shovel and dug around and eventually lifted a piece of land, holding the shovel there for me, holding the Earth back and waiting.

The Letter

I pulled a Ziploc baggie containing a note out of my back pocket. I crouched down in front of the open earthen hole and placed the note inside. It says nothing more than the history of the tree; the story of a grandfather who loved his granddaughter so much that he planted her a tree. It shares our names, and some dates. And I told the new owners—whether these or whomever someday finds that baggie with the note inside—that I hope they enjoy the tree as much as I did.

I will miss her. I will miss them all.


6 replies on “A Beautiful Heart Among the Broken Ones”

This left me teary. Your description of the memories that hit you with the scents and closing the door on feeling too much, I know that feeling too well. And discovering the heart-shaped knot, I had a lump in my throat. You have wonderful imagery, I could picture it all in my mind. Grief boots. There are grief clothes in my closet. I must read your posts about your tree. While your tree story is clearly different from mine, I understand the attachment to a tree. My yard is a living memorial and as badly as I want to move at some point, I can’t bear the thought of leaving those 3 trees behind or that anyone might cut them down. (Hug)

Jenna, I could feel the pain of your loss. This was as heartbreaking as it was hauntingly beautiful. I’m sorry for the loss of your grandparents, and for your tree and all it represents.

I believe, with absolutely everything in my heart, that your grandmother left you that knot recently, knowing you enough to know you would come say goodbye and wanting to do so as well. Covering you all in prayer right now.

I remember after my father died how it hit me all of a sudden – the loss of all the “things” and memories on top of the overwhelming grief and loss of the person. {{{{{{{{{{{{HUGS}}}}}}}}}}} I love your memories of your tree and I so glad you got to say goodbye to it.

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