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Rooted in LIFE (04/11/2004)
By Janet Lewis Burns

Loosen your hands,

Let go and say good-bye.

Let the stars and songs go.

Let the faces and years go.

Loosen your hands and say

good-bye. - Carl Sandberg

I reached for an Easter story, not very enthused on a gloomy Sunday afternoon. I pulled out the tattered, Lewis family black and white album. Though the smiling photographs of Mary, Ronnie and me, on Easter 1953, are familiar, I can't recall the hue of my bowl-shaped bonnet, or one colored egg, box of peeps, or pastel basket lined with stringy, static grass. I gaze at the pictures and reflect..."where did we go from here?"

It was as though the book dropped from a high place into my waiting arms. A simple story of living and dying for all ages, which I hadn't picked up for years, had found me again. I had planned to share this with grandchildren; the time has come. "The Fall of Freddie the Leaf" was written by "Living, Loving & Learning" author, Dr. Leo Buscaglia.

The season of Easter, in order to glorify life, must, likewise, be rooted in death. The forward to Freddie's story unleashes a subject once kept mute, behind closed doors, where children were concerned. "Dedicated to all children who have ever suffered a permanent loss, and to the grownups who could not find a way to explain it." This book is a delicate balance between life and death.

A conversation goes on between two leaves on one huge tree, the wise leaf Daniel explaining things to a new leaf Freddie, who had "first appeared in spring as a small sprout on a rather large branch near the top of a tall tree." Colored tree photos sweep across the mind's eye in striking accord.

"What's a purpose?" Freddie had asked. "A reason for being," Daniel answered. What a lowly tree provides - shade for the elderly, a cool place for children to play, and "to fan with our leaves the picnickers who come to eat on checkered tablecloths." As fall brought frost, and then a blaze of color, Freddie asked, "Why did we turn different colors, when we are on the same tree?" "We have faced the sun differently," Daniel mused. "We have cast shade differently."

The same breezes that had made the leaves dance began to push and pull at their stems, almost as if they were angry. "It's what happens in fall," Daniel told the others. "It's the time for leaves to change their home. Some people call it to die." It happens to all, weak and strong. We do our job, we experience, we learn to dance and to laugh. "Then we die."

Freddie was afraid of the unknown. "You were not afraid when summer became fall. Why should you be afraid of the season of death?" "But there is something stronger than the tree," Daniel remarked. "It is life. That lasts forever and we are all a part of life." "It's been about the shade and the old people and the children." Daniel effortlessly let go.

Then Freddie was alone, the only leaf left on his branch. "Freddie found himself losing his color, becoming brittle." "...snow weighed heavily upon him." "As he fell, he saw the whole tree for the first time." Realizing that he had been a part of its life made him proud, and he was more comfortable than he had ever been.

"He did not know that spring would follow winter...that what appeared to be his useless dried self would join with the water and serve to make the tree stronger."

"Most of all, Freddie did not know that there, asleep in the tree and the ground, were already plans for new leaves in the spring...the beginning."

Let go...and let God. Poet Sara Teasdale once penned: "It was a spring that never came;/ But we have lived enough to know/ That what we never have remains;/ It is the things we have that go."

Roots are strengthened by one's passing. Celebrate your need for God this Easter...and drift along in peace. 


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