A young couple married and set about to build their first home. It was the home they would live in until their retirement and, perhaps, for the rest of their lives together thereafter. When the home was finished, they decided to do some landscaping. The young wife was especially concerned with planting a tree – one that, once mature, they could sit under the shade of in their retirement leisure. So she chose an oak sapling and found the perfect spot for it in the yard.
She planted the sapling and tended to it diligently, adding water and nutrients as needed to ensure its growth. Within a couple of years of planting the sapling, it began to grow – slowly at first, then more quickly as the years went by. It wasn’t much to look at the first few years. The tree was small and skinny and it was several years before additional branches began to sprout. It was too small to sit under and provided very little shade. But the tree was growing and showing promise of one day becoming a mighty oak.
With each passing winter, the tree would lose it leaves – few at first, then many more once the tree began to take hold and grow. But every spring the buds returned. And then – as the summer approached – the leaves would appear in full. By fall they had turned a blaze of colors and the tree was magnificent. After many years of growth, the tree was mature and the couple – no longer young – was able to enjoy its splendid shade. They carved their initials in the tree and hung a swing from it which both they and their children (and, later, their grandchildren) would swing from.
In some years, the tree required pruning. Whole branches of the tree would be cleaved off but remarkably, the tree continued to grow. Occasionally a branch would break off by itself and once or twice the falling branch damaged other property in the yard. Yet despite the “withdrawal” of its branches, it grew larger, providing even more shade than the year before.
Eventually, the once young couple grew old and died. In the years after their retirement and before their death, the tree provided all of the shade that the young wife envisioned when she planted it. When their estate was settled, their children inherited the couple’s home – along with the mighty, magnificent oak. Although much larger and fuller now, the tree still sheds it leaves every winter, leaving just the trunk and branches to stand firm against the harsh winter’s retreat. But every spring the buds return. And every summer the children and their families rest under its shade. And every fall they marvel at its beauty. It has, by every measure, become something truly to behold.