Last summer, Mrs. Elm got some bad news; she was diagnosed with incurable Dutch Elm disease. I was crushed at her prognosis and wrote about it in an earlier blog post. In that post, I professed that there are many unexplained miracles and cures that happen every day and, if there’s no scientific cure for Mrs. Elm, then it is time to move to plan B–a miracle. To enlist a miracle, you must have hope, faith, prayer, and ritual.
Hope and faith are the solo part of the above equation, but prayers and rituals are lifted by the participation of many.
The When and Where
A few months after the diagnosis, a group from my church, Trinity Cathedral in downtown Little Rock, decided to express our gratitude for our volunteer ushers. We coupled it with a retirement party for Julie, the Dean’s wife who, for the last 6 years, has been wrangling the usher team for each service. I offered my home for the celebration.
With this scheduled usher party at my home, I saw the opportunity for a tree saving rite. I enlisted the Rev. Dr. Stuart Hoke, an exceptional priest who presided over the interment of my mother’s ashes. We’ve become fast friends. (Interesting fact: He witnessed the World Trade Center attack. To learn more about his incredible story, listen to his interview on my podcast or read it in BRAVE magazine.) Earlier in the year, I’d mentioned Mrs. Elm’s plight to Father Hoke and asked him if he had a tree saving rite. Of course, he did. “Just let me know when and where and I’ll be there,” he said.
With many of my church family coming to my home, “the when and where” was obviously now.
Upon request, Father Hoke sent us a service he called The Revivification of a Beloved Tree, with prayers he’d found from a 19th century prayer book written by Episcopalian monks. I emailed the ushers to let them know that, along with fellowship and food, the evening would include a blessing of the tree.
The ceremony began early Thursday evening. We gathered on the porch to sing together and perform the sanctification of holy water with a pinch of salt and a priest’s blessing. Then we paraded to the tree for the rite. In anticipation of the early November sunset, I had wrapped Mrs. Elm in soft Christmas lights. She glowed as we read from the program and the priest christened her and us with the holy water and gave us his blessing.
Some guests giggled nervously, some stayed on the porch, while others looked on knowingly, with love and understanding for the ancient, druid-like ceremony.
After the ceremony, a fellow parishioner and orthopedic surgeon said, “Kerry, in my work, I see miracles often; unexplainable healings. I believe we have done a good thing for Mrs. Elm tonight.” Others told me I might consider planting a companion tree next to her…just in case. Not everyone is a believer.
The next morning, I carried my pitcher of holy water to the tree and recited the blessing and prayer that Father Hoke had written in the program and instructed me to say every day. As I read from the script, my daughter arrived and, together, we sprinkled Mrs. Elm and lifted her up.
We all felt better.
by Joyce Kilmer 1886-1918
think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;
tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.