When It’s More Than an Empty Hole

Cut It Down

They’re cutting down the tree today.

Buzzzzzz. That’s the sound I hear through my ears.

But the sound I hear through my heart is louder. Children laughing. Leaves tossing. Dogs being petted. Bubbles being chased.

All under the shade of that tree.

But now? Gone. Replaced with tears. Loss. Emptiness.

With every limb that drops, a memory drops with it.

But it’s more than the tree that’s breaking me.

Two Trees

We have (well, had) two trees in our front yard. One is the required Yoshino cherry tree per our neighborhood’s original covenant. Everybody used to plant one. In the spring the neighborhood was lit up with beautiful light pink cherry blossoms. It was fabulous.

But times change.

As the years went by, either the neighborhood covenant was no longer passed around, or the residents discovered no one enforced it, so why bother planting a cherry tree.

There are still enough cherry trees in the older yards to make it worth your drive through the neighborhood though. I’m glad about that.

But the second tree in our yard was a water oak. It’s the tree nearest my daughters’ two bedrooms.

We bought the tree as a sapling when we moved into the house in 2001. It was a little crooked, a little malformed, so we got it cheap.

It started small, but after 20 years, it’s grown straight and tall and round. And big.

So big that its limbs brush against our roof. Its leaves clog the gutters. Its roots threaten the foundation of our house.

It took a lot of convincing, but I finally agreed. Okay. Cut the tree. Take it down.

No Turning Back

But now that it’s happening, I want to change my mind. I know it’s not reasonable.

Seeing the bareness left behind is too much because I’m in a season where other things have also been cut out of my life.

Things I didn’t agree to lose. Things I have no control over. Things that are far more important to me than any tree.

But now it’s done.

The spot where the tree once grew is now empty.

Empty is how my heart feels too. The front yard is a visible reminder of it.

In time, maybe we’ll plant something else. Something further from the house. Something that won’t cause us damage one day. Smaller. More manageable.

But today’s not the day. Today is the day we pay the tree trimmers our money and they take away our tree.

I feel the cuts in my heart. But my heart is still beating. I still have multiple joyful reasons to live and laugh and love.

I change my gaze from the front to the back yard. The back yard has so many trees I can’t count them. We planted very few of them ourselves. Most are here as gifts of time and grace and God. Strong, healthy, beautiful.

But one day they will be gone, too. Nothing here is forever except the love of God. Refusing to accept the impermanence of everything in our daily existence only causes extra suffering.

As I grieve my losses, I’ll try to remember to take in the whole picture, both front and back, both the things that have already changed, and the things that will surely change later.

And say thank you, God, for the blessings of today, the ones still here in the moment.

There are many.

Share in the comments.


15 thoughts on “When It’s More Than an Empty Hole

  1. Martha J Orlando

    Since we live in a forest, we’ve had to have some trees taken down and limbs pruned. It always makes me sad to lose a tree, but like you, Lisa, I remind myself that nothing here on earth is permanent; only God is forever.

  2. Ashley Rowland | HISsparrowBlog

    I can so relate to your sadness at having to cut down a tree. There was a giant oak in my grandparents yard that was struck by lightning probably fifteen years. Half of it was still standing, but I’ve been sad about that tree ever since. There were so many memories beneath it. Some really good times with people I don’t see much anymore. Wonderful reminder today, Lisa. Nothing here is permanent, but our God is.

  3. Barbara Harper

    We just had some small trees removed by the power company when they put new lines in. We didn’t plant them–the previous owners did. But we all enjoyed decorating them for Christmas. The trees had hid the utility box–now it just stands there in its ugliness with brown dirt all around. We’ll have to figure out how to re-landscape the area. But I know I’ll mourn those trees especially at Christmas.

    I think your situation would be harder still, with all the memories of your daughters growing-up years associated with the tree.

    It’s sad that there’s so much we have to let pass on in life. I guess it’s a good reminder that life is fleeting and this world isn’t permanent. And, as you said, to enjoy the now God has given.

  4. Kym

    I’ve had similar experiences when we’ve lost trees to ice storms or high winds. We don’t have that many big trees on our property, so it’s painful to see one splintered by the weight of ice or toppled by the wind. Still, those trees did provide firewood to keep us warm in the following seasons, so they kept on giving. Like many of our losses – we can still be blessed even when there’s an empty space.

  5. Joanne Viola

    Lisa, I cannot believe you are writing about this as we had a huge tree taken down on Monday! We planted it 30 years ago and I have fought to keep it. We have planted every tree on our property except the ones in the woods down back. The one we took down was the first one we planted when we bought our house. I cannot believe how sad it has made me to see it come down. I have been trying to get my thoughts down in a post as I ponder the experience. This post has blessed me deeply.

  6. Trudy

    šŸ˜Ŗ So sorry, Lisa. But I love how you turn your direction to what lasts forever: “Nothing here is forever except the love of God.” Amen! ā¤ļø May our hearts be comforted with that truth. Love and blessings to you!

  7. Theresa Boedeker

    Thanks for sharing your sadness. It reminds us it is alright to grieve the things like this. We have two trees in our side yard that we have talked about taking down, and each time I protest. One day, though, and I’ll be sad. I like your point about looking front and back and taking in the whole picture. So important at times like this.

  8. Jan

    I also had two beloved trees cutdown in my backyard. I am a tree lover so this was hard to accept for me too. But…
    “Jesus, the same yesterday, today and forever” my only forever constant!
    Thk you for this.

  9. Tammy Kennington

    Good morning, Lisa.

    A loss like this does cut deep. It tears at our memories.

    We, too, recently lost the beautiful birch in our backyard which had provided shade to our children while they knelt beneath its branch, tossed the ball, and played with the dog. It felt like losing a friend.

    I was reminded of the children’s book, The Giving Tree, as now there is a stump in its place. Perhaps I’ll decorate the small area with potted flowers and remember that the passing of time brings me one day closer to my Lord.

    Blessings to you today,

  10. JeanWise

    oh, Lisa I so hear you. Yes we grieve trees too. I love trees, their symbolism and even friendship over the years. Beautiful reflection!

  11. Karen Friday

    Lisa, planting and enjoying the life of a tree for that long is a hard loss. We have a beautiful river birch in our courtyard that sets inside the courtyard wall. Branches have grown in all directions, toward the house and out over the front yard. Its leaves also reek havoc on our gutters, which can cause a water issue during heavy rains. Still, I enjoy it and can’t imagine our courtyard missing the grand beauty it brings. Glad there are still both memories attached to your tree and numerous trees in your backyard.

  12. Jeanne Takenaka

    Ahhh, Lisa. I am truly sorry for your losses this year. They do tend to hollow a woman out, don’t they? I’m praying for you as you navigate them with the Lord. As I work through my own heart hurts, I so appreciate the reminder that God is the One who is eternal. Our eternal Father walks with us as our shade and the one who strengthens and upholds us. Sending a prayer your way today.

  13. Amy Jung

    Lisa – you do such a good job in this post helping us to feel the loss. I get it. I’ve mourned trees before as well! Thank you for the bittersweet reminder that nothing is forever but the love of God. May the losses make us long even more for our permanent God.

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