And so I cheated. A minute ago I got up and walk outside to a circular oasis in the parking lot's sea of cement and breathed the fresh air and talked to "The Franca Tree."
The graceful pagoda dogwood stands small but tall on the other side of the flagpole from a magnolia about to break into full bloom.
We planted the tough little dogwood there one day last April in a brief ceremony. We planted it in memory of friend and co-worker Franca Lewis, who left us all too suddenly and all too soon not all that long ago.
The day was chilly and damp, and we were sad. There was no doubt about that. It was a time of supressed heartbreak.
We watched as through the following months the small, chest-high tree endured a long drought, and searing sun. As I watered it one day, I wondered at its resilience, and hoped it wouldn't die. That would be awful. The worst thing that could happen.
I started talking to that living thing I call The Franca Tree. The people who saw me standing next to her in the winter, caressing her bark and mumbling, must have thought me nuts.
Probably true. But to be honest, I really didn't care.
I did it again today, when I cheated and briefly left my desk for the small solace of The Franca Tree. I caressed her bark and let myself be sad for a second. Sometimes thinking about the past does that. It makes you sad all over again.
But then something happened. As I stood there barely touching a graceful branch with an outstretched hand, I felt incredible joy. It jolted me. I realized, finally, that The Franca Tree wasn't about death at all. It was about life.
How silly I had been.
The Franca Tree of winter was gone. She was surging with life. She was in leaf, and in bud. Her upcurved branches danced in the light breeze.
She had endured. She was a survivor.
She sang a song of spring.
In that moment, under that blue sky and on the wings of a soft wind, The Franca Tree resurrected my hope and my faith.
I admit I cried a little then.
Happy tears are better than sad tears. They don't hurt as much.
I wish you an Easter filled with the joy and promise of The Franca Tree.