The Illusion of Ownership

Red, in better days
Goldie back in 1992






















For the first time in 26 years, our autumn will be a little less glorious. Last month, one of our large maples died, seemingly overnight. It was one of two that were in the front yard when we moved here in 1988. That red maple was part of our history. Our grandchildren climbed on her lower branches, and her crooks cradled many an Easter egg. We expected Red to outlast us--maples can live over a hundred years. However, as we’re finding, not all do.

Although it might have seemed to passersby that Red died quickly, we've known for several years her days were numbered. A forester we consulted when we first noticed her decline told us that even a nick by a weed eater can make a tree susceptible to disease and insects, leading to premature death. 





 Whatever the initial wound, Red is gone. When our tree service didn’t show up as promised, the Johnson boys—Terry and Jerry—powered up their chainsaws and did the job. I was amazed at the amount of wood the guys stacked by the street.
 


Two days later the yard waste people arrived and carted off every last branch. The stump grinder came the next, leaving us with a pile of sawdust where Red once stood. 

Instead of planting another tree, Terry's on a new mission. Grass. For years, he's tried to thicken up the front lawn, but even shade-tolerant varieties  refused to thrive under the trees. The very next weekend he carted off the sawdust and brought in sod--lots of centipede sod that only requires two hours of sunlight. True to form, he hauled it, prepared the ground and laid every inch of it alone. And it’s taking root.

Although we had no idea Red would be gone so soon, we did acquire another tree this summer when a small Luetumpka Red Japanese maple caught my eye at a Navarre flea market. The cultivator, a graduate of the University of Alabama landscape architecture program, proudly told us that particular variety had been developed by Mr. Johnson. We figured if a Johnson produced the little sprout, it must have potential. 

I christened him Akio (bright boy).


Akio's too small go in Red’s spot, and we haven’t decided where to plant him. (Maybe he'll get us started on that flower bed we've been thinking about for two years). Wherever the little guy ends up, you can be sure we’ll tend to him with care.

As I think of how I’ll miss Red's fiery leaves each autumn, I'm reminded of the people and other beautiful things that have slipped away far too soon for my liking. If I could have, I would have kept them longer. But as with all of God's creation, they weren't mine to control. They were just on loan for a season. 

It's important to recognize and relish God's gifts while we can. But with the right perspective, I’m finding that long after they’ve departed, they continue to shine in my heart.

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, 
who alone does wondrous things.
19 Blessed be his glorious name forever; 
may the whole earth be filled with his glory!
 Ps. 72: 18-19 

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