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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Father (as in paternal parent, not God) (04/10/08)

TITLE: Silent Sentinel
By Emily Gibson


We bought our farm from 82 year old Morton Lawrence who loved every tree on this place. After 79 years on this farm, he treasured each one for its history, its fruit, its particular place in the ground, and would only use the wood if God had felled the tree Himself. Morton directed us to revere the trees as he had , and so we have. When he first took us on a tour of the farm, it was in actuality a tour of the trees, from the large black walnuts in the front yard to the poplars along the perimeter, to the antique apples, and pear, the filbert nut grove, the silver plum thicket, as well as the mighty 70+ year old Douglas Fir, Western hemlock and Red Cedar trees that had reestablished after the farm was logged originally in the 1920's.

He led us to a corner of his woods and with tears streaming down his face, stood beneath a particular tree and explained that this tree was where his boy Lawton had hung himself, taking his life as a fourteen year old, in 1967.

Morton still loved this tree, as devastating as it was to lose his son from one of its branches so tragically and unexpectedly. He stood shaking his head, his tears dropping to the ground, and I knew his tears had watered this spot often in the previous 23 years. He looked at our boys, a two year old in a pack on my back, and a four year old gripping his daddy's hand, and told us he wished he'd known, wished he could have understood his son's despair, wished daily there was a way to turn back the clock and make it all different. He wanted us to know about this if we were to own this woods, this tree, this ground, with children of our own to raise here.

I was shaken to the core by such raw sharing from this loving father and by the obvious sacredness of the spot. We grieved too, recognizing what that day long ago, and every day since has meant to this dear old man, his wife and daughters. Though Lawton laid buried in a nearby neighborhood cemetery, a too-young almost-man lost forever for reasons he never found words to express to others, it was as if this spot hallowed by his father's tears was his grave, as this tree witnessed his last act, and his last breath on earth. A solemn silent sentinel: not forgetting nor forgotten.

We have left the woods untouched until now in our effort to let it restore and heal, and to allow that tree to become surrounded by new growth and new life. Our boys are now older than 14, though our daughter is still younger, and all have heard the tragic story of Lawton. They are reminded daily of the precious gift of life they have been given and that it must be treasured and clung to, even in our darkest moments. Morton's tears that watered these woods are testimony enough of his own clinging to life, through his faith in God, and in respect to the memory of his beloved boy. His grieving heart ached with emptiness every time he confronted his loss.

Morton and his wife Bessie now share the ground with Lawton, reunited again a few miles away from our home that was theirs for decades. Their woods is opening anew to our feet, allowing us passage again as we break through old trails, and despite the darkness that overwhelms it each fall, the woods bears life amidst the dying.

This is what this Father and the Son, unknowingly, have left behind to us as a forever reminder. And we will not forget.

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Sara Harricharan 04/17/08
This gave me goosebumps! It is very special, the title hinted at something serious to come, but this experience was one I enjoyed from beginning to end. It is rich with detail and expressions of emotion and that little thing that makes a story 'real'. Excellent writing-I enjoyed this piece! It's a favorite of mine this week! ^_^
Tim Pickl04/17/08
Wow--what a memorial. I hope and pray your story touches parents who have lost their children. Well done.
Janice Cartwright04/18/08
What a rich tale, and richly told. Your words are descriptive without being overdone and the emotions of the father so identifiable for any parent. Thank you so much.
Debi Derrick04/19/08
This is incredibly moving - descriptive without too much; just enough emotion. Nice work.
Jan Ackerson 04/21/08
I find this immensely moving, tender, very special. One of your best yet.
Gerald Shuler 04/21/08
Wonderful read. The memorial was touching in every way. I would have liked to see some conversation in the piece but that is just my own preference. You wrote extremely well.
Betty Castleberry04/21/08
This touched my heart. You expressed the elderly gentleman's feelings well. I could see the special tree and feel his emotions.
Very nicely done.
Debbie Wistrom04/21/08
I love the voice of this as well as the telling. I was touched, so glad you wrote this for us. Great title, too.
Joanney Uthe04/21/08
Beautiful job expressing the love of the father and his pain. I enjoyed the symbolism of letting the ground heal and being ready to to trampled again with the healing of hearts.
Dee Yoder 04/21/08
Lovely and sadly beautiful. It must have been a difficult daily reminder to the father, seeing the tree and remembering the pain of what his son decided to do. Awesome story.
Mariane Holbrook 04/21/08
This is so moving, so tender. I could easily have been moved to tears in a couple of places. A great read!
Lyn Churchyard04/22/08
This seemed so real. What a lovely, tender story. A fine memorial. Well done.
Joy Faire Stewart04/23/08
What a touching story and I was brought to tears. Wonderful job!
Joshua Janoski04/24/08
Wow. What a story. I can't imagine what it must have been like to stand beneath that tree knowing that your son hung himself from its branches.

This story was masterfully written. I almost don't know what else to say, because the way you wrote it left me speechless. It was sad and beautiful at the same time.

Thank you so much for sharing. This is one of my favorites this week.
Aaron Morrow04/24/08
Truly and deeply touching. Thank you for sharing this, the old man's reverence for the trees, even the one, is described wonderfully.