I didn’t cry.
“The avocado tree wasn’t even ours,” I chided myself.
The massive, fruit-bearing tree towered tall and wide upon our neighbor’s property. Throughout the years of its life span, though, the tree’s branches grew beyond our neighbor’s fence line and conveniently extended within our eager reach. As a result, our family enjoyed the bounty of very organic, very fresh, and very delicious avocados from our neighbor’s tree year after year.
Yesterday, this neighborly shopping arrangement changed.
Tree fellers, as they are called here in South Africa, climbed up and into the avocado tree loft and began to saw and prune. One branch, then another branch, and then even more cascading branches were cut away from the boisterous tree. The tree fellers made quick work of every limb that hung far over the fence line – until none remained.
Because all of these avocado branches had previously hung down on our side, the branches fell crashing to the ground on our side of the fence, too.
I waded through the fallen branches to locate a handful of unripe fruit. I brought the small collection of avocados inside – knowing this would probably be the last time that I would have the opportunity to gather this much – even though only a handful – from this tree again.
So, no, I didn’t cry.
But, I did mourn.
Our family’s back garden avocado delight had reach its conclusion.
My sense of loss was a normal reaction, though. Wasn’t it?
We experience mourning when some activity, some opportunity, some enterprise, some work, some proposition, some occupation, some dream, some hobby, or some form of business that we value, love, and appreciate comes to an end. The level of investment of time, energy, and passion will directly coincide with the amount of sadness and loss we feel, I imagine – even if it’s a good, good thing.
I know when I said my final farewells to my Oak Hills School community in Beaverton, Oregon before John and I and our young family began our final preparations for the mission field, I cried my eyes out. My twenty-plus-year public education teaching career was finished. I was grateful for the experiences – which were many. However, the ache of saying farewell to it all was real and raw. I loved teaching children and I loved that school community.
A friend encouraged me not to focus on what I was leaving behind, but rather to consider what I was going to. The challenge I faced when thinking about our family’s future in South Africa was that I had never visited this southern Africa nation. I said ‘yes’ to the invitation to live and serve in full-time ministry in South Africa without ever having set foot in the country. Thus, I had nothing to envision for myself – only what others shared from their experiences.
As I consider what our life will be like without the cascading avocado branches, I know we’ll be okay. We can still purchase avocados here. There are groves and groves and groves of avocado trees in South Africa. In fact, there are many times when John is on a ministry trip in the northern region of the country, he will pick up a bag or two from a roadside vendor and bring a good number of avocados home – not only for our family, but to share with our team. John will still do that.
But, I’ll miss the avocados that we could pick from our neighbor’s tree. I imagine that a few may still fall to our side, but it won’t be the same.
And that’s just like the life in which we live. Seasons come, and seasons go. Opportunities arise and then dissipate. Careers start afresh and then end with a job transition or retirement. Strong, confident abilities wane with age. Babies burst into the world with a wondrous cry and then mature into young, aspiring adults in the blink of an eye. There is a time for everything.
Solomon once said:
What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.
New International Version, Ecclesiastes 3: 9 – 13
I take pleasure in the fact that the Lord made this avocado tree a thing of beauty in its time – for us. I am grateful that the Lord set that tree where He did on the fence line – for us. We found great satisfaction in its fruit for the years we could – appreciating it as a gift of God.
I loved having my wooden bowl filled to the brim with avocados from that generous tree!
I’ll miss that.
But, I won’t cry.
Not this time.
This time, I will celebrate the gift of the many avocados we received through the years. It was a wondrous season of life for us and I’m grateful for it – even as this season now concludes.