Requiem For A Heavyweight

by Sandy Johnson

An hour’s time is all it took to shave half a century and more of life off the big elm in front of our house this morning. The trucks roared in at 7:30 am; the man in the hydraulic lift went up into the high branches; the gas-powered chainsaw growled and chewed at the limbs until the vaulted arches crumbled to the street below. The voracious sucking-machine greedily gobbled and ground them to bite-size bits and swallowed them all.

The trunk and shorn stumps of limbs are all that remain now until the next crew of people and machines comes to complete the death process.

“It makes me feel so sad,” I said to the boy next door who was watching with me.

“But if it was dying, they’re helping it,” he replied.

“They shoot horses, don’t they,” I thought, and I felt the irrational anger release inside me. Why should there be such a thing as a Dutch Elm Beetle? How can nature be so profligate? Why does death have to be a part of life?

I mourn the loss of this tree. Its aliveness meant something to me. I’ve watched new green life surge into its branches for six springs; I’ve thanked it for its dark green umbrella of shade in the heat of five summers; I’ve gathered the yellow leaves it showered on the ground in the autumns and pressed them between sheets of waxed paper for my kitchen window as a sunny defense against the cold months ahead; I’ve surveyed its vaulting arches, visible in their winter bareness; I’ve watched as the white snow outlined its black tracery and the white squirrel family scampered among the maze of its branches. This tree has been my friend. It has pleased me and brought me gifts of color, new life, cool shade, and beauty of line and form. Its life is in my remembering now. I celebrate its life and I mourn the passing of this friend.