I received the call that morning, unexpected and out of nowhere. At first I thought it was some kind of sick joke, some twisted sort of mind game to get an emotional rise out of me.
The truth of it all hit me like a fierce punch to the stomach. It caught me off guard like tripping over my own feet, but with the added terror that being close to a cliff’s edge may incur. I had all the air in the world yet I couldn’t breathe, and all the time in the world yet I felt frozen in it.
Oddly enough, my restless feet brought me to the apple tree in the backyard. The one she had planted with me when I was just a young child. I climbed it, just as I had done so often in the past. The sturdy protective branches held all of the memories that the walls of a home may have, and the quiet rustles of the branches, blossoms and leaves whispered the old, distant stories to me as I climbed higher and higher until, finally, I rested in one of the hugging curves of a branch and leaned against the trunk. At some point during my climb, I had begun to cry.
The apple tree was resilient, much like she had been. She could stand strong in harsh winds, and would provide shelter in relentless storms. The branches were as close as I would ever again get to just one more of her hugs, or one last comforting touch.
I don’t know how long I was up in that tree. Hours? Mere minutes? But in that time that felt like its own form of forever, I realized I still had her. She was in my heart, in my traits, and in that apple tree. I looked up through the canopy with eyes that were also hers, and I felt comfort. I felt home.