“A bad seed” they would say, shaking their heads and shrugging their shoulders. That simple gesture completes their effort; they have climbed every branch and examined every leaf and are now standing, axe in hand, ready to chop down this tree. And as they exhale deeply into the next topic of conversation, I am left standing, staring at the stump left behind… my older brother.
It was my older brother that I looked up to when growing up. Back then, he would whisper to me all the secrets in life: how to ride a bike, how to play hockey and how to stop throwing like a girl. His were the branches you could swing on. When we got older, it was also my older brother that would pull back the curtain and reveal the darker side of life – drugs, alcohol and dependency. This was my first experience with the fact that people change and this change, this ugly change, reached down my throat and unraveled my core.
In that moment, my belief was born. In that moment, I understood the certainty of change. In that moment, something I would not have chosen as my belief had carved itself on my tree.
Since then I have lived, I have learned and I have experienced. And, at thirty-two, as my brother continues his struggle, I, at twenty-eight, am raising his child. It was just over a year ago when this little girl came into my life, her branches weak and her leaves falling off. Her broken heart was filled with fear, her spirit shaken with grief. So I took his little girl and I whispered to her all the secrets in life: how to sing from the very top of your lungs, how to read a book with all your imagination and how to love someone without being afraid. Safe from the world, under the shade of my tree, she began to heal. Today, at ten, she has taught me more than my brother ever did. She has revealed the beauty in change. She has strengthened my core.
Now, as I stand in front of my brother’s stump, his roots rotting in the soil, not too far away, it is his seed that faces the sun, growing tall and strong.
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