I received an unexpected phone call this morning from the city of Costa Mesa informing us that Judson’s sycamore sapling at Wilson Park had been vandalized. For awhile we had been concerned about the tree because its growth seemed stunted; it didn’t appear to be developing as it should. But the city official on the other line spoke of malicious destruction described as someone having karate chopped it several times. It was so badly beat up that he couldn’t even identify its species any longer. So they cut it down, leaving a very small stump.
I felt punched in the gut. I tried to tell myself it was just a tree in an effort to downplay all I was feeling.
But it wasn’t just a tree…
This is the sapling planted in memory of my dearly loved and missed son. This is the tree that was dedicated with family and friends in 2008 as a symbol of life, to grow healthy and strong and provide a place of rest and comfort for all who would sit in its shade. This is the tree we decorated on November 7th each year as part of remembering Judson’s home-going. This is the tree I’ve loved, cared for, and tended to. And just like Judson, it lived a very short life.
It felt agonizingly symbolic.
I went to the park today and lamented the death of the tree. I sat and stared at the little clean-cut stump. I played with the roly-polys making their home at the base. And as I cleaned the memorial plaque that no longer marked anything, I felt even more acutely, the reality of death and decay in this world. The groaning of my soul for heaven became a little more audible.
The city of Costa Mesa will be planting a new sycamore in honor of Judson. Maybe this new tree can be symbolic of Judson’s new life—vibrant and full!