Two trees stand at the back of my house, guarding it through the days and nights. One is a massive willow, with branches reaching all the way to the ground like overly-long warriors' arms. It's the heart of my town; I swear that tree is powerful and endless like time.
The second tree is a wisp of a thing; I worry the winds might take it away. It's over eight years old, and still struggles to grow.
Anyway, I stared at those two trees, devised and weighed the differences between them. The little tree has always reminded me of Zeke because there's something wrong with it, and it will never be like other trees no matter how hard I hope and pray. The big tree reminds me somehow of myself trying to make it through the storms of life, always encouraging the little tree to be strong.
I intensely studied the trees. . . . Then a tiny voice broke through my thoughts.
"Why is he hooked to all those machines?" The Hippie asked; somehow she'd found a bunch of pictures of Zeke, and she wanted answers.
"He only had one good lung." I turned to her, putting my back to the trees beyond the window. "He wasn't well, Honey, so the machines helped him breathe."
"Why did they stop working? Machines hardly ever stop."
"It's not that they stopped. Daddy and I decided . . ." A knot formed in my stomach, how could I explain my actions to a little girl? "We had to unplug the machine. People call it 'pulling the plug.'" The moments flashed through my mind. I remembered his death, his life. How I had to be strong even though I was only nineteen.
But still, why did she have to ask so many questions, and why does it still hurt; he died in 2003. . .
The Hippie's face grew red. She balled her fists. "What? He could still be here, but because of you, because you wanted him to die, you took him away from me! I wanted an older brother, always have. But you took him away."
She didn't understand. I know she's too little to know about life, pain and death. She couldn't understand how fast I had to grow up, feeling like an old lady in a teenage body. Yet her words stung deep.
She ran into her room and threw herself on the bed. "I'm so mad at you," she said. "I wanted an older brother!"
And I wanted to keep my son!
"He was in so much pain. If you were hurting everyday and always would be, would you want to stay alive. . . on machines? Like when you have to poop really bad? Imagine feeling that pain forever."
(Sorry for the graphic-ness, The Hippie just hates pooing, so it was the perfect reference.)
"Yeah, I'd rather be alive. And Zeke felt that way too. You took his life . . . you did. And you didn't even give him a choice." I closed her door, and my baby Hippie, the healthy, rainbow baby I'd had after Zeke, fell asleep in her clothes.
How can I explain how much her words hurt me? How my own latent fears, came to the surface again?
After I got all my other kids to sleep, I knelt next to the couch. "God," I prayed. "I'm so sad. I love you. Thanks for everything you've given me, even if you had to take some things away."
I gazed through the back window, tears skirting the edges of my lips.
I noticed then, it was dark outside, even though the porch lights shone on my special trees. Light danced across the leaves. The branches drifted back and forth in what seemed like the beginning of a storm.
I scrolled to the weather channel and gaped as the news paraded across the screen. Our city was about to have the worst wind storm of the century. Winds were predicted to get up to 80/85 mph.
I looked at my little tree that always reminded me of Zeke, and death rode on its branches. I couldn't imagine it toppling over and leaving me too.
As I stared, the winds worsened. The trees rocked and shook.
"Oh, God," I cried.
You'll never believe what happened next.
To be continued . . . Read the rest of this story HERE
If you'd like to learn more about Zeke, please find his story HERE.