Not so long ago a seed fell to the earth.
That seed sprouted, and was nurtured by a soft and unconditionally loving mother, and a strong, hardworking, sometimes stern, yet gentle father. Around it four other seeds began to grow, and a small grove grew up, each tree unique, with its own sense of humor, its own voice, its own roots and its own fruit.
Those tiny seeds, that started as mere sprouts, were loved and watered and fed and cared for. And that nurturing and love and caring left a mark on those sprouts as they journeyed upward toward the sun, extending their branches, reaching ever higher, while also growing strong and deep roots.
The oldest of those sprouts grew strong. It didn’t often speak, nor put on a display of pretty flowers, but it worked hard deepening its roots and strengthening its branches.
It learned from its siblings, and it learned from its parents. It took its father’s strength, its mother’s kindness, and its sisters sometimes mischievous personalities and folded them into its own bark. It was unique standing proud and strong, yet clearly a part of that little grove, and clearly part of the greater forest.
As that tree grew ever higher to the sky, and ever deeper into the earth it met another tree from a different grove, a different forest. Two seeds, into sprouts, into saplings and into trees, each unique and from different forests, yet clearly part of the greater world.
Those two trees became intertwined. A soft, gentle, and playful tree, intertwined with a strong, quiet and supporting tree. Their roots both deepened and pulled from their own grove, their own history, while their branches tickled each other high in the air.
Flowers and fruit from one, and strength and shade and protection from the other. Now intertwined with another.
Growing ever closer together.
Each brought their own roots, their own families, their own history, their own scars, their own celebrations, and their own traditions to each other.
They were so similar, and so very different.
But those two intertwined trees were best friends.
You’d rarely see them apart, always seemingly tickling the other or caring for a broken branch.
The roots of those intertwined trees grew ever deeper, and their limbs reached ever higher. And they too began to nurture a small grove. They cared for their grove in the same ways that their parents cared for them. Strong and firm, and full of unconditional love, with hugs from big branches that could swallow up a young sapling.
It wasn’t always easy.
Groves take a lot of work. Most of it hard, some of it unrewarding.
And young trees can have a mind of their own.
Sometimes they forget that they are trees, flittering off trying to be birds.
Or they throw all of their fruit on the floor in a fit.
Or snap off their own branches.
Or carve things into their bark.
And they agitate and fight with and scratch and tickle and tease each other.
But they also love, and play, and share.
Those two intertwined trees nurtured those five saplings much as they were nurtured in life.
Those single seeds, intertwined with another, grew their own grove, their own part of the forest. A grove with a quirky mix of traits. Each different. And yet each clearly part of a larger whole. Each clearly like their mother and father. In different ways. And each growing into their own shape, with their own leaves and fruit.
Today, that grove has grown.
And it has become enmeshed and entangled into a much larger forest.
A forest of both friends and families.
Of visitors and of steadfast companions.
And in that forest there are trees of every size and shape.
Bearing fruit of every flavor.
And leaves of every color.
And bark from smooth to rough.
And branches that flit in the breeze and others that are strong in a storm.
That forest is here today.
To honor a sapling, that grew into a tree.
That entwined with another.
That always carried with him an inner and outer strength.
That had a deep love for his family.
And adoring love for his best friend and partner.
Today we honor a tree that is no longer growing, no longer a part of this world, but will for a long time stand strong and proud in our minds and our in hearts. And we will remember the tickles from his leaves. We will remember hiding under those strong branches in a storm. And climbing those same branches under the sun.
If you had asked me to describe my father last week I would have painted a picture of a small oak tree, playing in the forest with his family. Sometimes strong and stern, yet somehow always laughing and teasing and warm and welcome. If you were to ask me that today?
It has all changed.
I knew my father was a good man, with many friends.
But after yesterday, and after you, all the trees in this man’s forest came to honor him, I would have to change my description. I would have to say that my father, though quiet, and simple and strong, is not just a simple oak tree playing in the forest.
You have shown me that he is a giant among trees.
A giant among us.
He didn’t act like it.
He wasn’t proud.
He rarely talked about himself, or his dreams, fears, or worries.
He put his head down and did his job, as a son, as a husband, as a father, friend, brother, co-worker, and boss.
He quietly kept growing, deepening his roots and reaching those branches to the sky. For some of you he used his branches to work hard, even when it meant getting dirty. For others he used those same branches to comfort in a time of need, or to shelter from a storm. He used his deep roots to keep him grounded, to anchor him to his family and to his forest. He used his voice to guide. A voice that could be stern and strong, but most often filled with laughter. He brought all of those traits along as he went from seed to sapling to tree to the father of his own grove.
Thank you so much for being part of his forest.
Thank you so much for showing me what a giant tree my father had become.
Thank you so much for honoring him in life.
And thank you so much for honoring this new part of his journey.
You will be missed, but not forgotten.
I am thankful and proud that this seed that became me did not fall far from the tree.
Delivered February 14th, 2013.