Nature often offers metaphors more elegant than any we can manufacture. In the redwood ecosystem, all seeds are contained in pods called burls, tough brown clumps that grow where the mother tree’s trunk and root system meet. When the mother tree is logged, blown over, or destroyed by fire, the trauma stimulates the burls’ growth hormones. The seeds release, and trees sprout around her, creating the circle of daughters.
The daughter trees grow by absorbing the sunlight their mother cedes to them when she dies. And they get the moisture and nutrients they need from their mother’s root system, which remains intact, even after her leaves die. Although the daughters exist independently of their mother above ground, they continue to draw sustenance from her underneath.
I am fooling only myself when I say my mother exists now only in the photograph on my bulletin board or in the outlines of my hand or in the armful of memories I still hold tight. She lives on beneath everything I do. Her presence influenced who I was, and her absence influences who I am. Our lives are shaped as much by those who leave us as they are by those who stay.
Hope Edelman, an excerpt from her book, “Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss”. Excerpt printed in “Modern Maturity” magazine, January/February 1995 issue.