Trees do so much to make life pleasant for us. They provide shade and a place for wildlife to live and play. Kids and cats climb them and play around them. How do you say goodbye to a well-loved tree that has become old and hollow inside?
Several years ago, a more than 200-year-old huge spruce tree, which had become a favorite at a family camp, suddenly fell. No one was staying at the camp when the tree fell. It toppled over onto an often-used pathway that led to a creek running through camp. People who stayed at the family camp often walked along the path to get to the spruce which stood beside the creek. Its trunk was so big around that it took several people with hands linked to circle it.
Word quickly spread that the beloved big spruce had fallen. Pieces of bark and splintered wood remained even after the bulk of the tree was cut up and hauled away. People took some of those wood chips and made a variety of different crafts and window boxes with them. Those wood chips and bits of bark still decorate homes as a reminder of how much the tree meant to so many people.
It could have been tragic if the spruce had fallen on a building, but it grew far enough away from any structures that even when its long trunk fell onto the pathway it didn't reach the nearest structure, an outdoor chapel. If it had been close enough to fall on the chapel, the damage would have been catastrophic.
The big spruce turned out to be hollow through much of its interior. It must have had a hard time standing upright in its last months of life.
Though that spruce was at a campground, many people have tall trees growing around their homes. They often grow quite fond and protective of those trees. The decision to cut down an aging and well-loved tree before it can do damage may feel like losing an old friend. But the tree itself, when it gets old and hollow, is suffering. It no longer feels sturdy. It has a hard time drawing nutrition from the ground, sun and atmosphere.
If you own a home surrounded by trees, how do you prepare yourself for the loss of a tree that needs to be cut down before it damages your house? Take photographs of it. If you're good at drawing, paint a picture of it. Plan a meaningful ceremony to say goodbye to the tree. Keep a journal about your experience with the tree from the time you first met it until the end of its life.
If you know someone who's good at working with wood, have them make a table top or something else from part of the tree once it has been cut down. Place it in your home to help remind you of the tree and all it means to you.
Saying goodbye to a tree that has shared many years with you is seldom easy. But it is part of the cycle of life and death. The photographs, drawings, journals, carvings or other keepsakes you make from the tree will ensure that its memory lives on in your heart.