read to feed the soul

Written by FBJ Women for Women

January 21, 2021

by: Eva Hart

My Happy Tree

2020 was a horror story for much of the world. But for me, it began on February 14, 2019. My husband, Frank, had worked in the banking industry for more than 40 years and retired in 2015. He did not adapt well to retirement, and I noticed gradual changes in habits and behavior.

I should have recognized these signs since my dear mother had suffered for years with a brain disease and had spent those years in nursing homes. On February 14, Frank suddenly became gravely ill. After a five-week hospital stay, we were told that he was suffering from frontal temporal dementia, a dementia that strikes younger adults, and he would not be able to recover from it. He would need around-the-clock specialized care. I had no choice to take him to a memory care facility, where he still resides and is a mere shell of the man that he once was.

I usually was not a procrastinator about putting up and taking down Christmas decorations. They went up Thanksgiving week and were taken down the first week of January each year. It had always been our family custom to put up two trees, one in my living room “studio” – that was filled with antique family heirloom ornaments and then a fun silver tinsel tree for the den. At the time, I didn’t know why I had left the tinsel tree up in the den, despite my family admonishing me to “please take the tree down.” My answer always was, “I haven’t had the time.”

With Frank in the hospital, and later in memory care, I would go to work and then straight to visit him. Frank couldn’t understand why he was there, and felt as if we wanted to get rid of him. He couldn’t understand. When I pulled into our driveway each night, my heart filled with fear and dread. The house was dark and foreboding, and I was alone. The first thing I did was to turn on all the lights inside and out, but that was still not enough. Then, I thought about the tinsel tree. When it was lit, the entire room seemed to sparkle, and it gave me peace to see the lights. I dubbed it as my happy tree.

It has now been almost two years since our lives took a sudden downturn, and that tree is still up! I have put more happy ornaments and sparkle on it. My daughter Dara, and my grandchildren, Margaret Douglas and Knox, will answer when asked, “Why is Ms. Eva’s Christmas tree still up?” The answer is, “because it’s our happy tree!”

I have had many favorite verses of scripture in my 47+ years of Christian service. But Philippians 4:11-13 is closest to my heart: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” . . . And, with a little help from my HAPPY TREE!

Thank you, Jesus, for the simple reminders of your light we see each day. Regardless of what form that light comes in, we know it’s from you! In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Eva Hart

Eva Hart