An experience came to mind recently, something I believe I’ve shared before, but I sense it’s something I need to touch on once again. Years ago, in the days following my father’s death, my husband & I helped my mother and my younger siblings pack and prepare to move. In the midst of the confusion, a plant that had been in our family for years was stashed inside of an open truck. By the time we arrived at our destination, this poor plant looked like it had been through a war. Its leaves were shredded, and it drooped horribly, but my mother didn’t have the heart to throw it away. Instead, she gave it to me, hoping I could nurse it back to health.
My husband and I lived about two hours away from where the rest of my family would be residing for a while. After we helped get everyone settled, we returned to our home with our infant son. The plant I had been given was placed in a corner and pretty much forgotten. This plant was at least as old as I was. It had been given to my parents when I was very young. A dracaena palm tree, it tended to grow quite lush and tall. When I inherited the plant, it was shorter from a recent pruning, and in a dilapidated state compliments of the move. It resembled what I felt like on the inside of my heart.
I kept it in a distant corner, where I didn’t have to look at it very often. I watered it when I watered my other plants, but I didn’t give it any special attention. Then one day, an observant friend looked at that plant, and then at me. “Why aren’t you giving that plant a chance to access any light?” she asked. Though I had given it water, no light could shine on its leaves, the very thing that would help it thrive. It had tried to survive, but now it was dying—the leaves had yellowed, and I wasn’t sure I could save it. That’s when it dawned on me that I had been secretly hoping the reminder of my dad’s demise would fade away. I felt a bit ashamed of myself. Had I been wallowing in self-pity so much that I was neglecting things of importance?
Struck by the symbolism of that small tree, I pulled it out of the corner and trimmed off the dead leaves. I found a new place for it in the bright sunshine and gave it the attention it required. Within a couple of weeks, it began showing new signs of life and started to flourish. Giving it the nourishment it needed gave it the strength to survive its traumatic ordeal. I was so touched by all of this that I wrote a poem about it:
It was kept in a darkened corner
Where light and warmth could not penetrate
A reminder of all that had gone before
Slowly, green faded into yellow
At times it was pruned
But nurturing was limited
Gradually it slipped into partiality
Until one day
A chance beam of light
Dared glimmer on the withered leaves
Struggling through a forest of night
Reaching through leaves, stem, and decaying roots
It had been forgotten--this beacon from the past
Stored for a time
When strength could absorb
The offering of light
Awakening joy--pain--happiness--and sorrow
New life passing from roots to stem to leaves
Rebirth from the darkened past
Brought it forth into light
Where brown embraced yellow
Leaves reaching now beyond the rooted pain
Of mortal existence
Toward the hope of light
Green with the knowledge
Of warmer days.
Cheri J. Crane
As you may have guessed, this small tree was symbolic of the healing journey I endured following my father’s suicide. It still exists, taller now than it has been in years. It is a reminder that despite the heartaches of this life, we can go forward and flourish, with the right nourishment. It is indeed those small and simple things that help us to endure challenging days: prayer, studying the scriptures, church and temple attendance, all of those items that nurture our spirit. When we neglect those things, we tend to wither. And currently, we live in a time when we each need to be as strong as we can possibly be as the adversary steps up his assault on all that is good. We can survive anything, as long as the gospel light shines within our hearts. It is that light that gives us the hope to face each day, knowing it will all be worth it in the end.