I lost an online friend yesterday. We never met in person, but, when I heard the news, I sat on our steps and cried. She was a very kind lady, with a vibrant spirit, who loved nature, especially her beloved mountains, and was so appreciative of life, even when, before the lung transplant she got a few years ago, she'd accepted she might not make. I stitched a quilt square for her last fall. I'm still wrapping my head around how she could have survived a lung transplant and we lost her after surgery to remove a cyst from her back. I am so sorry she's not going to be here anymore, at least not in human form, but she is home, and she's healthy, and Heaven has a new angel this Christmas. I don't have much else to say today, but I found this. Lee would have liked it, I think.
The sides of the path were covered with white snow, but in the center, its whiteness was turned brown by the tramping of hundreds of hurrying feet. It was the day before Christmas. People rushed up and down the path carrying bundles, laughing and calling to each other.
Above the path, the long arms of an ancient tree reached up toward the sky. It swayed as strong winds grasped its branches and bent them toward the earth. Down below a haughty laugh sounded, and a lovely fir tree stretched its thick green branches, sending a fine spray of sparkling snow toward the ground.
"I should think," said the fir in a smug voice, "that you would try a little harder to stand still. Goodness knows you're ugly enough with the leaves you've already lost. If you move around anymore, you'll soon be quite bare."
"I know," answered the old tree. "Everything has put on its most beautiful clothes for the celebration of Christmas. Even from here I can see the decorations shining from each street corner, and yesterday some men came and put the loveliest lights on every tree along the path - except me, of course." He sighed softly, and a flake of snow melted in the form of a teardrop and ran down his gnarled trunk.
"Oh, indeed! And did you expect they would put lights upon you so your ugliness would stand out even more?" mocked the fir.
"I guess you're right," replied the old tree in a sad voice. "If there were only somewhere I could hide until after the celebrations are over, but here I stand, the only ugly thing among all this beauty. If they would only come and chop me down," he sighed sorrowfully.
"Well, I don't wish you any ill will," replied the fir, "but you are an eyesore. Perhaps it would be better for us all if they came and chopped you down." Once again he stretched his lovely thick branches. "You might try to hang onto those three small leaves you still have. At least you wouldn't be completely bare."
"Oh, I've tried so hard," cried the old tree. "Each fall I say to myself, 'this year I won't give up a single leaf, no matter what the cause,' but someone always comes along who seems to need them more than I do," and he sighed once again.
"I told you not to give so many to that dirty little paper boy," said the fir. "Why, you even lowered your branches a little so that he could reach them. You can't say I didn't warn you."
"Yes," the old tree replied. "but they made him so happy. I heard him say he would pick some for his invalid mother."
"Oh, they all had good causes," mocked the fir. "That young girl, for instance, colored leaves for her party indeed! They were your leaves!"
"She took a lot, didn't she?" said the old tree, and he seemed to smile.
Just then a cold wind blew down the path and a tiny brown bird fell to the ground at the foot of the old tree and lay there shivering, too cold to lift his wings. The old tree looked down in pity and quickly let go of his last three leaves. The golden leaves fluttered down and settled softly over the shivering little bird, and it lay there quietly under the warmth of them.
"Now you've done it" scolded the fir. You've given away every single leaf! Christmas morning you'll make our path the ugliest sight in the whole city."
The old tree said nothing. Instead he stretched out his branches to gather what snowflakes he could so they wouldn't fall on the tiny bird. The young fir turned away in disgust, and it was then he noticed a painter, sitting quietly a few feet from the path, intent upon his brushes and canvas.
The fir turned back to the old tree and said in a haughty voice, "At least keep those bare branches as far away from me as possible. I'm being painted and I don?t want you to mar the background."
"I'll try," replied the old tree. And he raised his branches as high as possible. It was almost dark when the painter picked up his easel and left. The little fir was tired and cross from all his preening and posing.
Christmas morning he awoke late, and as he proudly shook away the snow from his lovely branches, he was amazed to see a huge crowd of people surrounding the old tree, ah-ing and oh-ing as they stood back and gazed upward. Even those hurrying along the path had to stop for a moment to sigh before they went on.
"Whatever could it be?" thought the haughty fir, and he looked up to see if perhaps the top of the old tree had broken off during the night.
Just then a paper blew from the hands of an enraptured newsboy and sailed straight into the young fir. The fir gasped in amazement, for there on the front page was a picture of the painter holding his painting of a great white tree whose leafless branches, laden with snow, stretched upward into the sky. Down below lay a tiny brown bird almost covered by three golden leaves. And beneath the picture were the words, "The most beautiful thing is that which has given all."
The young fir quietly bowed its head beneath the great beauty of the humble old tree.