Another challenge is the celebration of holidays. Easter will forever be the hardest one to celebrate yet during that first year following her disappearance, Christmas proved to be another test of faith and strength in this journey. With Heidi still missing my parents had no intentions of decorating or putting up a tree. I understood their pain and not wanting to celebrate but couldn’t accept it, if that makes sense. I didn’t like the idea of my parents sitting in the dark through the holiday season and especially on Christmas Eve while the majority of the community would have houses, lawns and trees aglow with lights and decorations.
I had a choice to make. I could respect my parent’s wishes or rebel in hopes of restoring some joy to their hearts during this joyous time of year. My husband joined me as purchased a small 4-foot live Christmas tree. We decided it could be transplanted in the Spring in honor of Heidi ~ a way to inspire some Christmas spirit in my parent’s hearts while honoring and remembering Heidi at the same time. They accepted the tree and lit it with orange lights to match the orange ribbons signifying our hope for Heidi, hope she would be found and returned home. I won’t lie and say it was a joyous Christmas and we sang carols while stringing the strand of lights or baked cookies as laughed and remembered Christmases of the past. Truth be told… all that was done is we put up the tree with lights. Nothing more.
The tree was given to help my parents through the holiday and remember Heidi but instead the tree ended up being a gift to me. My parents could have said “No, we said we didn’t want a tree. Take it away.” But they didn’t. Was it the loss and despair in my eyes that softened their hearts to accepting this tree? Was it the chance that if Heidi was to walk through the door on Christmas morning, they wanted a tree in the house? Or did they simply do it for the daughter left behind…struggling to help and encourage them so I wouldn’t feel slighted? Regardless of why, we had a tree.
When Christmas was through the tree was moved to the basement, out of sight. During the spring of 95’ we planted that tree as a family. It was a sad looking tree as Dad pulled it from the basement. Dad contemplated not planting it because it didn’t appear to have any life left in it but I think he planted in out of fear…fear I would have a temper tantrum for not planting the tree we bought him. During those first months and years I think we did more out of concern for each other than we did to ease our own hurts or meet our own needs. If the tree didn’t get planted, oh well. At least they had a tree on Christmas.
As my Dad and I walked the property this week and visited with each other we happened along this “sad and pitiful” Christmas tree. We talked about our memories of its arrival at the Allen homestead and Dad’s willingness to plant a dying tree out of love for me. As you can see in the photograph, the tree not only survived, it is thriving taller than the wires and phone poles. The tree was gifted as a sign of hope, light and remembrance that first Christmas. In the spring, it appeared to be dead yet with some nurturing, soil and sunlight ~ it thrived and survived. Thank goodness we had enough faith to plant it.
Seventeen years later…both the tree and my faith have grown. We need to allow God to work through others to nourish, inspire, motivate, uplift and love on us so we thrive and survive. Your life trials and tribulations may be similar, the same or completely different than mine yet this philosophy will apply. Are you ready to thrive and survive? I am!