A Mighty Oak

She was quiet and strong and permanent.


Fall is acorn season. Thousands of acorns descend from a few mighty oaks in my father-in-law’s backyard. I have a two-year-old and for her it is as though toys are falling freely from the heavens. She is enraptured. She might be part squirrel.

I consider these little seeds. They are so abundant. The squirrels devour most of them, but some when placed in a fortuitous environment become their own trees, growing, blossoming and creating thousands of acorns of their own.

My mother-in-law was a mighty oak. She was quiet and strong and permanent. The rough winds of adversity bent several of her branches. But still she stood strong, deep roots anchored firmly in the rich earth.

Her children and grandchildren loved to spend time in her shade. They are an abundance of acorns, eight children, thirty-two grandchildren some scattered further than the rest. Each one is a new life beginning to take root and grow into beautiful trees of their own.

Last month, Alzheimer’s disease felled the mighty oak. This disease ravaged the remainder or her, what was left over from the personality, and the memories it had already stolen.

I watched Alzheimer’s strip nearly everything away. It stole her humor. It stole her laughter. It stole her hope. It stole her relationships. It stripped her down to her most basic nature. And it left kindness. It left gratitude. It left love. It stole what it could, and left behind what it could not.

Life has a way of doing that: taking everything away from us that it possibly can and exposing our core selves.

Some days, on my really dark days, I feel like everything good that I used to be is slowly being taken from me. It is an agonizing process, as I watch all of these balloons that were keeping me afloat pop one by one. My depression is slowly carving away all of the things that used to hold me together.

Some days I just want to surrender.

It is excruciating to experience, but instructive to watch. All that I thought I was is being peeled away, and I am having to learn to love the woman who is left behind – whoever she is. I have to love her. I have to love her unconditionally even on the days when I feel like all of the things that made her worthy are gone.

But there is hope. There is always hope. Even on the dark days. Hope that even though parts of me are falling away, the woman who is left behind will be wise, and powerful, and beautiful, not despite her trials, but because of them. There is hope that one day I will be a strong and mighty oak like my mother-in-law, with love and kindness and gratitude at my core and an abundance of acorns gathered in my shade.

Light the Darkness,

Dana Nevels


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