I dug a hole yesterday. Not a large or deep hole… but in our rocky soil… decayed granite- there was some effort involved. Once I had this two feet deep hole in the earth, ringed with dirt, I dug out a verticle key hole- a slot down the side for a length of plastic pipe… so that to water the tree, all one needed to do was to fill the tube with water and wait for it to filter down. I placed the pipe in the ground and filled the edges and bottom of the hole with top soil that we bought in a bag. I placed the tree in the hole, temporarily… still in its black plastic pot… to see if my wife, Marquita liked the placement…. and decided to let it rest there- to acclimate… before its final planting.
It is a Japanese Maple. Green and leafy. Currently about seven feet tall and with green bark. In the fall, it is supposed to turn a deep red before it loses all of its leaves.
We bought this tree to honor my son, Ethan… who has now been dead for just over two years. My memories are now more like the snap shots I have of him, or these brief little snippets of mental video or audio I keep buried in my mind. He is there… sometimes hard to find. Sometimes I strain to find that mental picture… or to hear his laugh and see his smile… Sometimes there is a trigger that brings a flood of memories. And sometimes he shows up quite uninvited… always welcome- even if he brings with him an awkward silence or a moment of tears.
A tree is something alive. And even though it may live for quite a long time… it is something mortal… it too, will die. So to place a small amount of ashes- some of the last of Ethan’s remains… in the hole to nourish a young tree- it seems like a better memorial than one made of metal or stone. Hopefully the tree lives a long life and outlives me… I hope it grows, and changes and sheds it leaves and then buds again… for many many cycles. Children should always outlive their parents… and Ethan did not do that. But maybe this tree can. It can take a bit of him… some of those last carbon and nitrogen molecules, and turn it into leaves and bark… to take a bit of him and reach up for the warming sun, drink in water, breathe out oxygen, make a home for some bird… and live.