Planting Trees in Heaven
For the past few nights I’ve had a recurring dream. My dad and I are walking along a walnut tree-lined pasture, next to a tin barn with a rusty roof. We walk along and discuss which walnut trees should be removed and what kind of smaller, more ornamental trees we should plant in their places. There’s something or someone important in the shed and, although I don’t know exactly what is in there, I suspect that it has something to do with my children; Katie my fifteen-year-old daughter, Jake my one-year old son, or Nellie, our soon-to-be-born daughter.
My dad died three summers ago. He fell at work and hit his head on a Friday and, on the following Monday, five of the closest people in his life gathered around him and watched as his medical staff removed his life support. We held his hands while he died. I was thirty-eight years old and I was not ready to let go of my dad. Are we ever? His birthday would have been yesterday.
My relationship with my dad wasn’t the closest relationship in my life. In fact, for most of my life, I was closer to both of my grandfathers than I was with my father. However, my dad and I had a very interesting and unique relationship that was focused on three things: family, the Masonic lodge and work. I don’t remember starting to work for, and with, my dad. I know that by the time I was about twelve I was working alongside him while he installed wiring in new and remodeled homes. I operated digging machinery and shovels to run wire from people’s homes to various electrical items around their yards. I spent a lot of time riding with him in his truck, from job to job, and we would talk about life, the importance of family, how to be productive, and the importance of honesty, integrity and a good work ethic.
My dad died at work. The night before his death, he saw most of his family members. We lived next door and saw him and mom almost every night for at least a few minutes. I didn’t often yearn for conversations with my dad while he was alive. Now that he’s gone I don’t often yearn for things or even words to fill the gaps that his death has left in my life. But I do miss him and I do wish that he could see how beautiful my daughter has become. I do wish that he could meet my new wife, Jenny. I know that he would be absolutely on-fire-in-love with my son Jake. I also know that he would be giddy about our baby, Nellie, who is due to be born in just a few weeks. He would be proud of me.
If he and I had the chance to talk again, it would probably be a lot like the dream. We would probably walk around outside talking about something perfunctory but practical, like which walnut trees should be replaced and what kind of smaller, more ornamental trees we should plant in their places.
But here’s the thing: When I wake up from that dream–every single time–I am more at peace that I have been in years. It’s tranquil. I feel fulfilled and complete. I feel productive and useful. The Buddhists call this feeling “equanimous” and I’m pretty sure that’s what it feels like to walk with your dad and plant trees in heaven.