Wednesday, November 08, 2006

God's Paintbrush And A Reflection

I took this photograph on October 31, 2006, a block from home. I have merely to walk a few feet out into my front yard, from which point I can gaze at the "on fire" tree standing in front of the nearby country church built in the 1800's. And when I look at that tree, I see my mother, who so loved this time of year.

A few days before her passing, Mom and Dad took a long drive so that she could enjoy looking at the fall foliage, which reached its peak a bit earlier that this year's peak. Did she know that their drive that day would be her last opportunity to drink in the beauty of God's earthly creation? Perhaps, because she said, "You never know. This could be the last time I see the autumn leaves."

A mere five days later, most of the trees had shed their leaves. And Mom, too, was gone, having shed this mortal coil.

An early snowstorm surprised the D.C. area on the day of Mom's funeral. Like my mother's passing, winter of 1987 had arrived with suddenness. The chill of that year's early winter mirrored the coldness in my heart at my having suddenly lost both parent and best friend.

In these beautiful days of fall, as I do every year, I find myself thinking back to nineteen years ago. One day my mother was vibrantly alive, the next she wasn't — just as the autumn leaves around us are vibrant with color, yet at the same time preparing the trees for dormancy.

56 Comments:

At 11/08/2006 6:30 AM, Blogger The Merry Widow said...

Sounds like G*D gave a beautiful present to a beloved child. HE does tend to be more thoughtful than we realize. I have seen thunderstorms where HIS Fingertips have "painted" the clouds over our heads, and nowhere else in the area! I have seen spectacular sunsets when noone else was around! It is so amazing that HE creates beauties for HIS children, even if only 1 will see! How sensitive
he is to us.
Good morning, G*D bless and Maranatha!

tmw

 
At 11/08/2006 9:08 AM, Blogger Old Soldier said...

I was born and raised in New England and know the beauty of Fall foliage. The picture brings back memories of driving in upper New England "sight-seeing" the gorgeous scenery of Fall. Living in the deep South now, I no longer see the vibrant colors of Fall. To a certain extent I miss the vibrant colors, but I never formed an appreciation for the season that followed, so to me Fall is a prelude to Winter.

AOW, I know the loss of a parent is tramatic, but there are blessings in a sudden unexpected loss. We lost my wife's Dad to a sudden massive heart attack and my Dad to cancer (over a period of time) and we are losing my wife's Mom to Alzheimer's. To see Mom's perfectly healthy shell and to realise she is no longer there is devastating. But no matter our tribulations, with the right relationship with God, there will be a glorious reunion one day. That we can count on!

God bless,

 
At 11/08/2006 9:13 AM, Blogger nanc said...

that is a very beautiful story. i've been trying to capture the essence of the seasons here and start an on-line album - the kids told me i'm on my own! they'll appreciate it one day i'm sure.

it has been a gorgeous fall here in the ozarks.

 
At 11/08/2006 9:58 AM, Blogger WomanHonorThyself said...

Thanks AOW..how blessed you both were to have had each other..and she is in your heart forever and ever..stunning picture.......thank u.:)

 
At 11/08/2006 10:03 AM, Blogger nanc said...

p.s. thank you for the diversion.

 
At 11/08/2006 10:16 AM, Blogger Elmer's Brother said...

AoW, this was cool.


Old Soldier it was nice what you said.

 
At 11/08/2006 10:24 AM, Blogger Farmer John said...

Great metaphor AoW.

 
At 11/08/2006 12:48 PM, Blogger Brooke said...

That was a beautiful memorial to your mother.

 
At 11/08/2006 12:56 PM, Blogger Pastorius said...

I second Brooke's comment.

I love the fall foliage. Where I live, in SoCal, we don't have seasons.

 
At 11/08/2006 12:56 PM, Blogger Pastorius said...

For instance, it was 102 degrees yesterday.

 
At 11/08/2006 2:26 PM, Blogger Mike's America said...

Great image to help change the tone in the wake of bad news. Thanks. Time to refocus!

 
At 11/08/2006 2:46 PM, Blogger Farmer John said...

Can't even get through to the Iraq Study Group's website right now. Since the Gate's appointment to SECDEF.

The new deal on Iraq is about to get greased.

 
At 11/08/2006 2:51 PM, Blogger Gayle said...

Beautiful post, AOW. Mike's right, time to refocus for sure. Things will be getting very interesting quite soon... I'm sure about that too.

I love that tree; it's gorgeous! :)

 
At 11/08/2006 5:12 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Today, the tree in this photo shed its leaves, even though the surrounding tress still show their fall colors.

When I left for work this morning, the leaves were still hanging on, but they were gone when I arrived home--and on November 8, too!

 
At 11/08/2006 5:13 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Farmer,
My literature class has been reading The Scarlet Letter the past few weeks. I have been in a metaphor mood.

 
At 11/08/2006 5:15 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Old Soldier,
One of the blessings of Mom's passing before Dad is that I got to know my father. For the ten years that he survived after Mom left, Dad and I were "a team."

Now, had Dad passed first, I'd never have gotten to know him nearly as well. The Lord's timing is always perfect, though we may not recognize that perfection at the time.

 
At 11/08/2006 5:17 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Mike,
One of the last acts my mother committed on this earth was casting her ballot on the election day a few days before she passed.

Despite what is going on around me, I always pause to reflect on November 8 and on the days preceding that date.

 
At 11/08/2006 5:20 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Brooke,
That was a beautiful memorial to your mother.

Thank you!

Despite all the intervening years, I've never before felt up to writing a memorial to Mom.

 
At 11/08/2006 5:25 PM, Blogger Lawman said...

AoW- That's a beautiful photo. I grew up in the foothills of the Smokey Mountains near Gatlinburg TN. I love looking at all the colors Nature presents.

That was also a wonderful tribute to your mother. While I mourn her passing with you, we can also rejoice in the knowledge one day you will see here again when Christ comes to gather the faithful home.

God bless you.

 
At 11/08/2006 5:25 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

WHT,
how blessed you both were to have had each other..and she is in your heart forever and ever...

At Mom's funeral, one of our friends--a strong believer--said to me a few words which I've never forgotten, even though I don't now recall much of anything said to me on that date: "It's only for a little while."

His words really struck me because, when Mom first felt ill--around November 6, the date she was hospitalized for observation--she said to Dad and me, "You're going to find out what it's like to do without me for a little while." At the time, I took her words to mean "I'll be home in a few days." But maybe Mom had a different meaning in mind.

A little while. Nineteen years is a long time in a person's life, but not in the face of eternity.

 
At 11/08/2006 5:30 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Lawman,
Your comment arrived while I was typing my response to WHT.

rejoice in the knowledge one day you will see here again when Christ comes to gather the faithful home

You've just reinforced my friend's words all those years ago!

I grew up in the foothills of the Smokey Mountains near Gatlinburg TN.

My mother grew up in the hills of east Tennessee. She often spoke of how beautiful that area was in the fall! I've never been to Tennessee in the fall--teachers don't get to travel much at this time of year. But one of these days, I'd love to visit Gatlinburg in the fall. Some of my family lives there and say that no more beautiful place exists on earth than the Smokey Mountains in the fall.

 
At 11/08/2006 5:58 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Nanc,
it has been a gorgeous fall here in the ozarks

This is one of the most beautiful falls I can remember. For once, I've still got my annuals blooming, adding their splsh of color to the fall foliage.

 
At 11/08/2006 5:59 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Pastorius,
it was 102 degrees yesterday

Here, we've had a fall warmer than usual. But no 102 degrees!

 
At 11/08/2006 6:00 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

TMW,
Sounds like G*D gave a beautiful present to a beloved child

He gives all of His children beautiful gifts!

 
At 11/08/2006 6:01 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

EB,
Now that I've finally figured out a little bit about my photo-editing software, I have a whole new range of possibilities.

 
At 11/08/2006 7:26 PM, Blogger Elmer's Brother said...

Here's to more beautiful pics! Cheers!

 
At 11/08/2006 7:29 PM, Blogger Storm said...

102 degress oh my see global warming

oh wait I just slipped into a chicken little movie another bird brain

 
At 11/08/2006 7:54 PM, Blogger nanc said...

i have a clematis flower with a backdrop of gold, crimson and maroon in the background - just one! G-d is still good, aow.

 
At 11/08/2006 7:58 PM, Blogger nanc said...

o.t. and fyi - our friend, fern, is celebrating a year blogging:

http://freedomnowonline.blogspot.com/

things will look up in the blogosphere regardless!

 
At 11/08/2006 8:31 PM, Blogger Steve Harkonnen said...

The picture - if you really look at it - signifies a foreshadowing - in other words, it's a photo that tells the story of a not so far off time when we begin to witness the demise of faith and Christianity.

You see, to me, the tree signifies a disruption. The red is evil. The white church behind the tree signifies a struggle to get the Word out.

Although I may not be a religious guy, I can see the meaning in pictures. Maybe this is a sign. Thanks for sharing this one with all of us. After all, it made me think. I can imagine what it's done to those that have faith.

 
At 11/08/2006 8:47 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Steve,
What a thought-provoking comment! Now you've got me thinking about another interpretation of that photograph.

Along the lines of your interpretation, the red leaves on that tree could represent the flames of hell licking at the purity of faith. But those red flames do stop their attack and are, thus, defeated.

Another possible interpretation: the steeple towers over the flames, which cannot reach the pinnacle. Nevertheless, the flames nearly reach the top of the steeple and nearly engulf it. The demise of faith--as you put it--is a close call, but still a victory for faith.

Whatever your interpretation--of course influenced by one's own perceptions and, in my case, experiences--thanks to your comment you have me thinking in symbolic terms other than the one I mentioned in my essay.

 
At 11/08/2006 9:37 PM, Blogger The Merry Widow said...

"I will build MY church and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it!"
We have a powerful promise, all Hell will break loose, but they will not overflood us! The flames only serve to purify our faith and burn out the dross! The weak will fall, but those who are made strong in the Lord will triumph!

tmw

 
At 11/08/2006 10:12 PM, Blogger American Crusader said...

Isn't it amazing how somethings remain in your memory as fresh today as they were years ago.
When my mother passed in 91, I can still recall conversations between family members as if it was yesterday.

 
At 11/09/2006 12:00 AM, Blogger Steve Harkonnen said...

AOW,

The more I thought of it, the more I wished I hadn't posted that. Your representation of the picture far outshines mine and the story is wonderful.

I think this week has taken a toll on my pattern of thought.

 
At 11/09/2006 1:36 AM, Blogger Freedomnow said...

I just had a talk recently about my mom's passing. It was sad, we had become estranged when she kicked me out of the house.

Later she got sick with cancer and called me to say she only had 6 to 9 months to live. I bought tickets to fly out to see her in a months time, but she passed away within a couple of weeks.

Thats how life goes, its rarely fair and not realistic to expect it to be so.

I couldnt have had a better mom. She was tough and loving. Everything good about me comes from her, everything bad is from dad's side, of course...

 
At 11/09/2006 2:31 AM, Blogger Truth-Pain said...

beautiful,.. just astonishing the joy of nature...

 
At 11/09/2006 6:14 AM, Blogger eyesallaround said...

Dang AOW, you made me cry.... So beautifully written... and the picture is gorgeous.

 
At 11/09/2006 6:34 AM, Blogger The Merry Widow said...

Steve- I think you touched on a truth, there many layers in life, and 1 thing can symbolize and represent many of them. But in the end, triumph is in the cards!
Good morning, G*D bless and Maranatha!

tmw

 
At 11/09/2006 1:50 PM, Blogger Farmer John said...

...it is fun to speculate. To me, a triangle or pyramid always represents a soul...

 
At 11/09/2006 4:17 PM, Anonymous Debbie said...

Beautiful picture. The leaves this fall have been especially beautiful here in Tennessee. Or maybe as I get older I can just appreciate them more.

 
At 11/09/2006 9:24 PM, Blogger kuhnkat said...

Steve,

never denigrate yourself. There are plenty of others who are happy to do it for you even though they have no right.

Remember, your contribution triggered an even better one from AOW. That is how it works. We help each other to grow and improve!!! Next time it may very well be the opposite!!

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

 
At 11/09/2006 9:46 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

KuhnKat,
Thank you for that comment to Steve.

Symbolism is usually subjective. That's the beauty of that particular literary figure!

 
At 11/09/2006 9:47 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Farmer,
To me, a triangle or pyramid always represents a soul...

I see several trianges in that photograph.

 
At 11/10/2006 9:02 AM, Blogger cube said...

The photo is as beautiful as your words. What a lovely tribute to your mom.

*sniff* I've just got something in my eye...

 
At 11/10/2006 10:08 AM, Blogger Farmer John said...

You're quite right, there are. This is one of my fav's. See how "high" it reached?

 
At 11/10/2006 7:05 PM, Blogger Consul-At-Arms said...

That picture looks a lot like St. Mary of Sorrows Catholic Church in Fairfax Station, Va.

Or am I completely off base?

 
At 11/10/2006 7:52 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Consul-At-Arms,
Thank you for stopping by!

I am well familiar with St. Mary's Church in Fairfax Station. Like most of Virginia, the area around Fairfax Station has drastically changed in the past few decades.

But the church pictured this photograph is not that particular church. Good guess, however. Many 19th century churches, regardless of denomiation, were built on a similar architectural design.

If I'm not mistaken, the church to which you are referring is several decades older. HERE is some historical information about the church you mentioned. Excerpt from that web page:

...[T]he Historic Church has Mass celebrated six days a week and is the site of weddings, baptisms and outdoor masses. Indeed, the Historic Church is the most sought-after church in the Diocese of Arlington for weddings because of its beauty and traditions surrounding it.

The little church in my neighborhood is not nearly so prestigious!

 
At 11/10/2006 7:56 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Farmer,
Of course, I meant triangles. Typo!

I do indeed see how high the triangles reach!

 
At 11/10/2006 7:58 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

FN,
Your mom called you, and you responded as quickly as you could. Sometimes--most times--we cannot predict when the end will come. Still, your not getting to say good-bye is sad, very sad.

 
At 11/10/2006 8:00 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Cube & Eyes,
What I wrote here needed to be written. I just wasn't ready to write this essay until now, probably because I hadn't yet reached that point in my grieving process.

 
At 11/10/2006 8:02 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Debbie,
maybe as I get older I can just appreciate them more.

Age has something to do with sppreciating the beauty of the fall foliage. But I have it from several other people, a few of whom are in Tennessee, that this particular fall has been especially lovely.

 
At 11/10/2006 8:03 PM, Blogger Always On Watch said...

Truth-Pain,
just astonishing the joy of nature

Both the simplicity and the complexity of nature's beauty make man's "art" pale in comparison.

 
At 11/10/2006 10:10 PM, Blogger Consul-At-Arms said...

I've linked to you here: http://consul-at-arms.blogspot.com/2006/11/re-gods-paintbrush-and-reflection.html

Thanks for the info about St. Mary's, but it left out the very important information about me getting married there myself.

 
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At 11/11/2006 10:14 PM, Blogger JINGOIST said...

What a beautiful and touching post.

Morgan

 
At 11/11/2006 10:16 PM, Blogger JINGOIST said...

Hey anon, did you read the original post? No? Read it and then go away. Thanks,

Morgan

 

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