The Tree of Life: My Rare Disease Roots
I don’t often take the time to talk about my personal feelings or thoughts. My days are typically entrenched with others’ needs, raising awareness of life altering illnesses and sometimes even death. Lately, however, I have felt this desire to share my lifelong love of trees.
While learning to hold a pencil in my tiny little fingers, my first drawings were of trees. Each tree, always tall and full of green would be perched up top of what I perceived to be, with my three year-old eyes as a mountain. My trees would be surrounded by a flower or two and spikes of grass in between.
As I aged, my trees became larger and created in thick dense forests. Birds in the skies and butterflies perched on tulips would surround the masses of strong, robust trunks of brown bark. Squirrels would run across branches and if you peered into the blackened holes of the main stem, owls could be imagined, deep within, only their eyes visible in the dark. Unless it were Christmas or Halloween, the tops of the trees were always bushy and colored with green.
In my teens, the trees became stark, and cold. Browns and blacks covered the page, and I was intense on creating a mass of branches, reaching out for something into the barren sky. There was less existence of time, the seasons were never present, and the branches were continually entangled in a weave of speculative uncertainty. I tried to draw deer, rabbits and horses, but always ended up leaving those images in the corner, with the focal point of the page being a tree.
When I wasn’t drawing trees, I was either climbing them to the highest point I could reach, or lying on the ground in the soft grass, gazing upon the mass of strength above me. To this day, I am still enamored with their shape, their strength and their beauty. I do not have a preference for type, be it Japanese Maple, Willow, Oak or Birch – I love them all. I see trees everywhere I go and will seek them on my walks, and play with their leaves between my fingers.
As I became an adult, I came to have a closer relationship with the tree. I came to have a clearer understanding of why I was so drawn to their beauty and their purpose in life. For my relationship with the Lord opened my eyes to see that it was Jesus that I have been in love with all this time. For me, the tree was always the way of life – strength, hope, renewal, shelter, beauty and survival.
The trunk was my strength – steadfast and tough with an ability to withstand the occasional storm.
The buds were my renewal – regrowth after a season of bitter cold and hardship.
The branches were my hope – always growing, reaching, grasping for the freedom of the sky.
The dense leaves were my shelter – knowing that I would always have a place to go to keep dry from the rain.
The leaves and flowers were my beauty – always turning a new leaf or flower every year, starting over with a brand new opportunity to shine.
The tree itself has been my survival – always confident and present.
In Genesis 2:9 – “And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” and in Proverbs 13:12 – “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life”.
And then as I aged further, I realized that my tree had roots. And yet, until now – I never took notice of these. That is, until my son was diagnosed with a RARE disease. Trees were always my life, but my life was born from roots. And of those roots, I learned how to stand tall like a tree. But, those roots were not developed until both of my sons’ births – and especially my youngest.
When we are at our youngest age, we are saplings. It is when our roots are nurtured and well tended that we become trees. Most of my nurturing came from outside the home and church in the summertime with extended family. Honestly, I know the only reason my trunk is strong today is because of my spiritual beliefs. The amount of temperamental storms always present in my life would normally have uprooted my existence.
Yet, somehow I had strong roots and having a child with rare disease only strengthened them. My overly sensitive nature became useful when my son needed extra love. My compassion helped my bow to reach deep within others’ souls, comforting their fears. My tough trunk has held firm and has kept my son from falling at his weakest moments. And my inner beauty has helped to bring smiles and enjoyment during those times when all we saw was despair.
I am thankful for my love of trees. I am thankful for the roots for which have given me the strength to help my son and others. I am thankful for the Lord.