Earp Takes Aim | Faith, Culture, Life

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Cindy's Lemon Tree

I officiated Terry and Sherry’s wedding several years ago.  He gave me a beautiful clock I still use as a thank you.  Though separated by many miles and now years, we’ve kept in occasional contact ever since.

I wrote “Too Many Firsts” on December 16.  Terry wrote a few days later to tell me that the same day I posted those words, he lost Sherry to cancer. 

I couldn’t read beyond that opening line until this morning.  I suppose it’s because his news was yet another painful first.  My first friend who also lost his wife and best friend.  A friend who now needed someone like me who understood to care. 

And I DO care.  So I wrote Terry.  Not immediately, but who knows?  Maybe though it’s obviously tardy, it may ultimately prove timely. 

“It's taken me a while to write you.  Sorry about that.  I suppose it’s because the loss of our loves in the same year has bonded me to you in a way neither of us would have ever wished for. 

I knew this loss was coming for you.  Even though I never seemed to know it for me, I knew it for you.  And yet, shocked by your loss, I cried for you today…and for me. 

Terry, I want to be there for you as you make your grief-journey.  I can’t take it from you.  I can’t make it easier.  I can’t shorten the duration.  But I can walk alongside.  And I can whisper to you with a persuasiveness that few others can.  See, I can speak words that, when they come from others, they may seem trite, canned and clichéd.  But when those same words come from me, you’ll feel the weightiness of powerful truth from a fellow-struggler who’s walked the same path you now walk. 

I’m only a few steps ahead of you, but please hear me brother:  Your heart will heal, even though your memories will never dim.  Your pain will lessen, though the void Sherry leaves behind will never be fully filled. 

Yes, you will hope again…and maybe also love again.  But the mark she left on you is indelible and for forever.  Because of Sherry, you will see things differently than you ever saw them before.  You will even taste, smell and touch things and be instantly transported to a comforting realization that she shaped the way you touched it and even how touching it made you feel. 

Please let me explain what I mean by that.

As you may remember, Cindy always loved flowers and trees and bushes and plants.  But her favorite botanical pleasure was her lemon tree.  For the first few years it graced our backyard, it yielded nothing.  And then, during the first season it did have a yield?  Jessica picked that meager yield when the lemons were still green [she thought they were limes].  But last year?  Cindy eagerly picked every lemon {though they were admitted still few} and savored every glass of water that was flavored by “her” amazing lemons! 

You’re probably wondering where I’m going with this, so let me end the suspense:  After months of being dormant, Cindy’s Lemon Tree suddenly burst into new life!  And I’ve been watching it for weeks as dozens and dozens of new lemons appeared, burdening its branches and delivering to me such a wonderfully idyllic promise of new life.  Truth is, I was so comforted by those growing lemons that I couldn’t bring myself to pick them…even though they were ripe!  Somehow, me picking them seemed wrong.  After all, these were Cindy’s lemons.

But then, last week we had a frost in Phoenix!  Talk about exciting!  So, fearing I would lose Cindy’s lemons, I coaxed Andrea and Liv outside and we picked every lemon from Cindy’s Tree!  In fact, we harvested, I still can’t believe this, over two huge tubs full of them! 

Somewhere in the middle of all that picking— and then especially as I tried to decide what in the world to do with them— I realized that these were still Cindy’s lemons.  Except now, they weren’t FOR her, they were FROM her.  I just know she nudged someone up in heaven to make her Tree way more productive than one scrawny tree ever should be! 

And once again, I realized that life with Cindy has forever shaped how I see, smell and even touch, even lemons!  Our afternoon “pick” was yet another nudge from her [but mostly from God] assuring me that Cindy’s life far from over…but that her best life ever was just getting started!

Perhaps nobody else who will read that story will get what I’m trying to tell you.  And maybe not you, either.  At least not yet.  But trust me…you will.

Because your Sherry is with my Cindy.  And though your heart is so heavy right now, you can be assured that God will give some Lemon Tree stories, too.  Stories designed to help you make it through. 

I’m sorry, man.  But I’m only sorry for you.  I’m actually quite happy for her.  She’s playing tennis with the greats…and scoring aces like she never did here.  And at some point, maybe weeks or months or years from now, you’ll come across some currently hidden tennis ball and when you find it, you will smile.  And then cry.  And then thank God that you had Sherry…even if for such a brief moment in time. 

I've often said that though I wish Cindy back, she doesn't want to come back.  And somehow, knowing that gives me peace.   And someday, it will give you peace, too.

I've also said, "Don't mess with a man who's lost his wife."  It usually makes other people frown…a scowl that never fails to make me laugh.  Because only someone who has lost as big as you and I have lost is strong enough to take on all other comers. 

Listen, when you’ve lost your life’s love, what other potential loss could even ruffle your feathers?  So bring it, dude!  I can conquer anything now! 

And Terry, so can you. 

A lot of your friends and family will tell you that they understand what you’re going through, but they don’t.  Unless they’ve lost as you have now lost, they may care…but they don’t get it. 

But I have lost big like you…so I DO get it. 

I wish I didn’t, but I do.” 

I wanted to also tell Terry that I was sorry it had taken me so long to write him.  But I didn’t, because I figure he understands.  At least the time will come when he will understand. 

So to my good friend {and clockmaker} Terry:  Keep setting those chimes and winding those clocks!  And then, every time they ring?  And you smile because the tones they sound make you think of her? 

May your heart also smile as you realize:  Sherry’s smiling, too. 

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