Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Father (as in paternal parent, not God) (04/10/08)
TITLE: Silent Sentinel
By Emily Gibson
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He led us to a corner of his woods and with tears streaming down his face, stood beneath a particular tree and explained that this tree was where his boy Lawton had hung himself, taking his life as a fourteen year old, in 1967.
Morton still loved this tree, as devastating as it was to lose his son from one of its branches so tragically and unexpectedly. He stood shaking his head, his tears dropping to the ground, and I knew his tears had watered this spot often in the previous 23 years. He looked at our boys, a two year old in a pack on my back, and a four year old gripping his daddy's hand, and told us he wished he'd known, wished he could have understood his son's despair, wished daily there was a way to turn back the clock and make it all different. He wanted us to know about this if we were to own this woods, this tree, this ground, with children of our own to raise here.
I was shaken to the core by such raw sharing from this loving father and by the obvious sacredness of the spot. We grieved too, recognizing what that day long ago, and every day since has meant to this dear old man, his wife and daughters. Though Lawton laid buried in a nearby neighborhood cemetery, a too-young almost-man lost forever for reasons he never found words to express to others, it was as if this spot hallowed by his father's tears was his grave, as this tree witnessed his last act, and his last breath on earth. A solemn silent sentinel: not forgetting nor forgotten.
We have left the woods untouched until now in our effort to let it restore and heal, and to allow that tree to become surrounded by new growth and new life. Our boys are now older than 14, though our daughter is still younger, and all have heard the tragic story of Lawton. They are reminded daily of the precious gift of life they have been given and that it must be treasured and clung to, even in our darkest moments. Morton's tears that watered these woods are testimony enough of his own clinging to life, through his faith in God, and in respect to the memory of his beloved boy. His grieving heart ached with emptiness every time he confronted his loss.
Morton and his wife Bessie now share the ground with Lawton, reunited again a few miles away from our home that was theirs for decades. Their woods is opening anew to our feet, allowing us passage again as we break through old trails, and despite the darkness that overwhelms it each fall, the woods bears life amidst the dying.
This is what this Father and the Son, unknowingly, have left behind to us as a forever reminder. And we will not forget.
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