Almost thirty years ago, my grandparents bought a home that overlooked a natural, spring-fed creek.
The creek ended in their backyard (or started, depending on your perspective), and a pathway led around the water to a rock-filled peninsula which could be seen from their back yard.
Grandpapa purchased that peninsula from the city for a dollar. $1.00. He jokingly told Grandma that she could have the gardening area in front of the water, and he would take over the peninsula.
She did, and he did.
Every Arbor Day, each of us 16 cousins would proudly bring a sapling over to Grandpapa. He would beam with pride as he dug a hole for his newest addition.
“Well, I think I have just the place for that,” he would say jovially while winking his eye.
Fall through Spring, we could almost bet that we could find him either in his “woods” or in the garden that he had planted in his self-proclaimed clearing.
My fondest memories are of joining him on that hill, picking up rocks, loading up the wheelbarrow, or even weeding.
I daydreamed in those woods, and had a safe place to run from my preteen questions. His woods brought me solace, and taught me how to simply be still in nature.
It was my sanctuary, my cathedral, and my prayer chapel all in one.
It was the birthplace of my imagination, and the incubator of my writer’s heart.
Somehow, as the trees grew and reached for the sky, my heart grew stalwart, and my passions were birthed.
Walking through the woods these last ten years never fails to produce the haunting ache of loss. Simultaneously, though, is the quiet calm that comes from unconditional love. I am his beloved granddaughter.
Death may have claimed his body for this decade, but there is nothing that will ever sever the cords of his love for me, or the memories that he made for me.
I think back on the desolate peninsula that was, and marvel at his faith.
He saw what could be, and poured his life into seeing it happen.
He left me an irreplaceable legacy.
I am thankful that he had faith for the generations yet to be. My kids love running through Grandpapa’s woods, enjoying the shade and the mystery of the now-giant trees that he planted long before they were born.
I am thankful that he directed my gaze back to my Creator, whatever season of life I was in.
I can only pray that I have the same legacy of faith, that I invest in those around me the way that he poured life and love into me.
Today, I am thankful for my Family Tree(s).