Monday, November 16, 2009

Mulberry Trees are Brazen!


Vera and Paula have two mulberry trees in their front yard, right across the street from our kitchen window. Yesterday Darwin predicted the leaves would start falling today, because it was supposed to freeze last night.

I hate to have to admit it, but he was RIGHT! As soon as the sun hit those trees, they started shedding their summer wear in a hurry. The funny thing about mulberry trees is...the leaves don't drift down at a leisurely pace. They hurtle. They clatter. They clank.
The sidewalk under the trees had nothing this morning...and already at 9:00 it looks like this.I predict those brazen hussies will be stark naked by nightfall. We'll see!

I tried to video tape them shaking off their leaves...but I swear they knew I was there. Still...I tried to post my video, and it wouldn't work. Someone tell me how!

I remember my mother being delighted when her huge mulberry tree that overhung her driveway would suddenly decide it had had enough fun for one year...crash. Down the leaves would clatter. I also remember her last autumn with us, in the year 2000. She was so sick, so wanting to be called home, yet lingering on and on. Her north facing bedroom had a sliding glass door so she could lie on her bed and look out at the trees and sky. Well, darn. I think I already wrote about this, so I'll just peruse my files and post it here right now:

Missing Mother

I miss my mommy today. I miss talking to her, just letting everything pour out, without weighing and measuring words, knowing that she will sift the wheat from the chaff, and still love me no matter what. I want to kneel at her feet , lay my head on her lap, and have her stroke my hair and tell me everything is going to be okay.

One night, not quite a year after Mother had died, I was feeling overwhelmed. Life seemed hard. I was feeling the burden of too many things to juggle, not enough time, not enough money, and not enough energy. I didn’t want to have a pity party with witnesses, so I betook myself out of the house, and onto the road. (I don’t recommend driving through a mist of tears, especially at night.)

I thought I was driving aimlessly, until I found myself pulling into Mother’s driveway, under the shelter of the huge old Mulberry tree. I shut off the engine and sat in a limp stupor, staring at the dark, empty house. No one is home, I thought. No one at all. I cried even harder.

One of my favorite places to be in Mother’s last months, was in her north-facing bedroom. She loved that room. She loved being able to lie in bed, look out the sliding glass door, and still feel that she was part of the passing of the seasons. She loved her view--the peach, pear, and aspen trees, Pine Valley Mountain in the background, and the ever-changing drama of the sky. That room was her refuge.

One autumn day I rushed to check on Mother during my oh-so-short- lunch break at LaVerkin Elementary. Ermal was gently snoring in the recliner in the study, with the TV blaring. I found my mommy lying in bed, curled up like a baby, facing north so she could see autumn. She was miserable, yet still trying to find something good about being alive when she desperately wanted to go home to her maker.

I plopped right down beside her and just held her for awhile. I wanted my love to envelop her, to cover and comfort her like the warmest, softest blanket in the world. I willed my strength to flow into her, to fill her. We held each other in silence for awhile.

I looked at the clock and knew I had to leave. Before I dashed off to duty, I knelt down by her side, held her hand, and we prayed that Heavenly Father would find a vacancy in heaven just for her. (Those were her words.) It was a tender petition, but why did my heart still ache? I wanted her to go…I wanted her to stay.

Outside, the wind was plucking at the brilliant orange and yellow peach leaves, sending them skittering about on the cement pad by the glass door. I had been watching those leaves throughout that fall, wondering how long it would be until the tree was shivering and bare. It seemed the leaves were extra tenacious, hanging on just like Mother. I thought of the O. Henry story, The Last Leaf. Would she be called home when the last leaf fell? It was a fleeting thought, no more lingering than the capricious wind.
Then the wind died down. Clouds shifted. Sunlight fought its way through, and one stray shaft picked out a long, golden leaf, hanging on for dear life on the closest tree. It was too O. Henry-esque to be believed, but it was true.

That moment has etched itself into my memory for a number of reasons. It wasn’t long at all—probably a matter of a few short days—until my brother DeMar burst into my portable classroom, just straight north of my mother’s bedroom door—and said, “If you want to see Mother alive, you’d better come right now.” I punched the P.A. button on my wall, and told the office to get me a sub fast.

I spent the rest of the afternoon with my brothers and sisters, clustered around the hospital bed we had installed in the west bedroom only a couple of days before, watching my mother struggle to breathe. It was the end, and we all knew it. We talked, we prayed, and I think we even sang some of her favorite hymns. Mother seemed completely out of it, totally comatose, but I would not leave her side. I was determined to be there when she breathed her last breath. And so I was. I was holding her hand when she took one last gasp, and took that giant leap into eternity. I think it was DeMar who was on the other side of the bed.

“She’s gone,” we both said. Everyone clustered close around. Oh, blessed release. We felt the presence of other loved ones in that room, welcoming Alice Isom Gubler Stratton home. It was a joyous moment.

The next morning, the golden peach leaf was gone. Just like Mother. At last.


(This peach leaf is in my back yard...but it reminded me so much of this incident, I had to post it here.)

8 comments:

Claire said...

I too loved your Mother!!!
She was always so sweet and Kind to me!!!
I always felt welcomed when ever I saw her!
Your Blog made me Cry!! Ü
That must be My Mom..
The last Leaf!!

The Cochran Buzz said...

I don't ever remember meeting your mom, but she had to be something AMAZING, to have had such an AMAZING daughter like you! This was a tear jerker for sure! I love how you write, because you describe it like I was there! Thanks for sharing! Love you!!!

Cheryl said...

Loved your Mom--Love you too. Thanks for sharing this heart warming Autumn post.
The falling leaves are so full of meaning.

Don Andres said...

Thank you for sharing this Mom! It sure brings back sweet memories I have of Grandma at her house, and sharing our birthday together.

Melissa and Michael said...

Mrs. Gifford,
I am so glad you posted this story. I have had it on my mind for weeks, trying to remember exactly what you had said to us in class that day. I remember being so touched by the story it has stayed with me for years. Evertime I see the fall leaves I always thinks of the poem and story. You have changed my life forever.

Tim Jet said...

Ever since visiting Italy I've loved olive and mulberry trees, especially old gnarled ones.Online Plant Nursery

4TheDogs said...

Thanks, Loleen. I was home from church nursing a smashed finger and followed your links from the Vera post to this. I loved it. Thanks for sharing. The blood is running in my finger again and your post has warmed my heart. Hugs, Marsha N.

Lolene said...

Oh, Marsha! I'm so glad you left me a note. I hope your finger is okay. I love you, girl!!!