I felt suffocated by all of it. The silence of the library amidst the roar of my mind made me wild. I suppressed my tears as long as the light exposed my twisted face and tormented soul. Where could I hide? Darkness enveloped me like a shroud as I burst through the heavy wood doors and plunged into the shadows on Hillsdale’s college quad. Only the stone cold statues of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan witnessed my flight. I ran until the grass beneath my feet hardened to brick; and the brick became pavement; and the pavement expanded into a courtyard. At the end of the courtyard rose a wall; and over the wall towered a tree; but when I came to the edge of the earth, I climbed up into heaven. Nothing could contain me. No one could console me but God. I sought Him.
A broad tree, rooted in the corner of the courtyard, bent over the wall that halted my flight. I lunged upon the wall balancing precariously on the ledge. Its upturned arm invited me up. I leapt in faith and felt my hands close over the limb which snatched me up. Like a child first learning to walk, I crawled along until I felt the firm, smooth-wasted trunk. I felt a heartbeat and only then did I stop moving forward, for his body and breath comforted me. From my planted feet on either trunk, I stared longingly for some sign of hope. My eyes roamed first over the quaint town of Hillsdale Michigan, and then beyond the horizon, and at last up to the stars for some sign of God. Lord knows how long I stood refusing to succumb to fatigue until my body collapsed defeated both physically and emotionally. Emotions swelled from my chest increasing in strength like the Great Lakes during a Michigan spring thaw. Tears flowed freely for the first time. In the rising storm of my emotions, a wind blew through the courtyard. Autumn leaves scurried over the cold ground whispering the tragedy in a hush-swish-push sound. The wind vowed to conceal the soft sobs and rock the cradle in which I rested so high up. Like the up and down motion of the waves, my cheek nudged the trees body until it nestled onto smooth bark. My mind still blurred with worry.
I knew it was only a matter of time. Doctors competed with death to preserve her life. My sister. Her baby. My newborn niece. Both. Rocked wildly by death himself. Panic inhibited me from reasoning. Hope had brought me to Hillsdale, but suddenly, this town, this school, this life felt too big to handle as I saw in my mind the lifeless body of my sister on the operating table.
Exhaustion incapacitated me. The wind lifted my pony tail and untied my hair ribbon. My strawberry-red curls slipped loose. Down a long curl, the bow slid to the end of a strand of hair but refused to let go. It clung to my hair in the same way that my fingers grasped at the tree for stability. I pressed my hands together pleading for some good news, praying to God for a miracle, weeping for consolation.
The tree moaned as the wind bent its arms to the ground, but in the side to side motion, the tree cradled me. Branches blew above me, and through the autumn leaves the stars seemed to brim with tears. Falling stars streaked across the sky like the rivulets that rolled from my face, staining the branch with salty, glittering, drops, that dripped to the ground. Time let me grieve, but while time passed, uncertainty increased. Everything seemed lifeless like the dull steps of school piers passing beneath the wall eager for a few hours of shuteye before dawn. Hopeful signs of morning light danced beneath the horizon, but I only saw cruel flames of fire licking viciously at the sky. It looked no different than the fluorescent glow above the surgeon’s table which revealed the bloody body of my sister.
When I woke, I could not move. I flexed my white finger tips around the trees trunk. Sunlight shot beyond the horizon and touched my face and arms and chest. I recoiled in the brilliance. Pulling out my phone from my pocket, I looked for hope. At that moment the sun jumped above the horizon and blinded me with its radiance. “Grace,” I mouthed. Pure grace bathed my body. Alive. My sister, Grace, and her child. Contrary to the night before, I did not flee the light this time. I embraced it carrying the joy of Grace in my heart.
All night a tree cradled a child. Its deep roots supported her when the hurricane of life uprooted her from trusting in providence. These roots plunged deep beneath the cold courtyard pulling up life giving sustenance from deep beneath the ground.
Disentangling my legs, I let them hang over the ground. I smiled at the sun. I dared to hope. I slipped from the limb. Exiting the courtyard, my feet retraced my steps from last night this time at peace. Before leaving the courtyard, I stopped and looked over my shoulder at the might of the tree. I knew it was not the silence of the night that made me peaceful but the reminder and reassurance of God’s promises. I pondered how much that mighty giant seemed to symbolize the character of God. The tree listened to my sorrows and directed my dull gaze to promises written in the stars as old as history and older still. I trembled not from my chilled body but from the shallowness of my roots—my lack of faith. God knew I was just a little girl in need of assurance, so through the storm and through the night, He rooted me to His promises—promises to comfort me and strengthen me every time I leap into His arms and gaze upon His image where the radiance of His glory caresses my tear streaked face.