We want to hang onto old friends as long as we can, but inevitably they go beyond our grasp or we go beyond theirs.
This weekend there was a little gathering for an old friend who had moved on, finding another path in life, and finally dying after a long illness. Those who knew him and loved him wanted to share their feelings and memories, pulling together what we thought were the most meaningful pieces of his life.
There is something missing in our world, just knowing that he is no longer here, and sadness knowing that all his paths have been taken, for good or bad, and forever there will be no course corrections. A life lived, decisions made, finished. Yet in that room were children, grandchildren who are still a part of him, and we can see the spark that burns down through the generations. And the friends will have those slots in their lives where he forever has a place.
Old friends are all around us here, all those who come in and out of our daily experience, familiar, comforting, each beautiful in their own way. I am thinking now of the embracing pepper tree framing the entrance to city hall and how it gives us a sense of history and stability, of permanence. Yet that massive trunked tree is now vulnerable.
It has a diagnosis of internal rot and decay. And there is danger that the trunks could separate and fall. The area has been fenced off for weeks now with explanatory signs.
Do people know that this tree that they are used to seeing welcoming them to city hall could be gone, or be reduced to a large stump with the loss of the major limbs? Can we find a way to hold onto that friend for another decade, even another generation?
It’s consoling to think that even though we lose our human friends a being like this tree can prevail, already living nearly a century beyond its planters’ lifetimes. Options have been explored and rejected, an understudy tree is in the wings, but I am hoping for another chance for this one.
The author is a landscape architect and former city council member.