The hole had already been dug by the time we arrived, a mound of black soil and broken roots and clay sitting next to it. The Mountain Ash was sitting nearby waiting for its new home, a spot where our friends will readily see it from their living room window. Huddling around the hole was a small group who’d come to plant the tree in honor of our friend’s loss, as a reminder of her father’s life.
The fresh cold air and the scent of soil and wet leaves under the early fall dusting of snow was invigorating, and a stark contrast to the dusty-closet, cardboard-box atmosphere I’d been immersed in for weeks now, packing for our upcoming move. One of those present in this little eclectic group—an impressive eighty-something-year-old—was as invigorating for me as the cold air. He’d purchased the tree and bags of compost and soil and brought large buckets of water (this plot of land on which our friends are building a home has no running water), and carried it all as though it weighed no more than a bag of popcorn.
We fine-tuned the hole and planted the tree, and—aging hippies that we are—stood in a circle around the tree holding hands, and tried to find words with which to honor the crucible our friends had been thrown into with this loss, a loss in this case amplified by its suddenness, and the tormenting questions suicide leaves in its wake.
Afterwards, we went into town for some Vietnamese food, to warm up and fill up and keep our tradition of a glass or two of wine. But before we did that we went inside to look at the pine home our friends are building (which incidentally, turns out to be perfect timing—work and reclusion hold much healing power for them.) This will be perfect, I see: open pine ceilings, trees just outside the windows, the loft already finished to a shine, gleaming. And now a Mountain Ash out the front window, as a reminder of the healing power of love and community, a reminder that our friend’s father lives on, a reminder that although he is no longer physically present, what he has given remains with her forever.