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Guest column: The peach

By Gordon Furr

Special to the Salisbury Post

One day, not so very long ago, I was walking around my old home-place wanting to absorb as much depth of detail of what I knew as “home” for the last five decades as I could before it passed to some other blessed family — and from the freshness of my current life into a dreamy memory, which sometimes may fade away. I wanted nothing to fade away, but to be pressed as firmly into my mind — a sort of mental hand-print in soft clay, if you will — as well as I might.

It was one of those beautiful and sunny days that only come along just so often. One of those special days where clouds make ever-changing friendly faces and forms, the breezes carry the aroma of a million or more flowers, and everything in the world seems vibrantly alive, whole and gloriously just very right.

I walked past our old and lovely and rambling farmhouse, the core of it built just after the Civil War.

The Peeler family built it, part of a huge plantation. The same family that created the locally famous Bamby Bakery — the very bakery that lent its palpable aroma to downtown Salisbury for generations past.

Walking a little further, I found myself beside our workshop that took the place of the original outside kitchen. Kitchens, back then, used to not be in the house. Neither were bathrooms, or even the essential water source. And more often than not, kids wouldn’t be found inside, either. Times were very different then.

As I made my way around to the rear of the workshop building, I noticed that it had become intensely overgrown with an overly-exuberant copse of English boxwoods. Birds had spread seeds from the formal hedges close to the the house to this hidden spot. These burly and overgrown hedges stood more than 15 feet tall, and were haphazardly strewn with tangles of muscadine and Swedish ivy vines interwoven through those boxwoods like arm-sized laces on a giant’s huge leafy-green shoes. It was a tangled mess.

Then, I saw it.

Right in the middle of that cluster of brush was an unseen and volunteer peach tree. I couldn’t see any evidence of that forlorn peach tree, save for one long, tall, slender twig of a branch that managed to thrust its way past that intense clutter of green shrubbery and into a thin shaft of sunlight — but just barely.

And at the end of that long, tall, slender twig was a peach. The peach.

The only peach the tree was able to produce; and for all the world was the epitome of a beautiful struggle amid strife. This peach was that tree’s only chance at preserving its life strain, its DNA, its last, great, hope. It was a beautiful, perfect, rosy, plump, exquisite peach. The perfect peach. Doomed.

It was obvious the tree would not be able to survive another year, for the rapaciously growing shrubbery was too much for it. The peach, designed somehow by the intent of the mother tree to be placed as far from the tree as it could possibly manage, would hopefully be far enough away from the entanglement to find a path to sunlight, and to fertile ground. But I could easily see it would not. It was a great attempt — an amazing attempt — but yet an attempt that was doomed to fail.

Ann, just barely hanging on to 39 and Jordan, now a solid 44, both childless, met later in life — both having had the experience of many tough life-lessons. They were looking forward to finally having a gaggle of children of their very own. For years frustrated in that desire, this time they awaited news from the gynecologist eagerly.

“Yes! We are having a baby!” they exclaimed excitedly to their friends and family.

At six weeks they got to see the little girl’s rapid-fire heartbeat on the sonogram (they just knew it was a little girl, somehow). They had already picked out a name — Amara. Kelsey Amara.

“BOOMBOOMBOOMBOOM” pounded the tiny little speck of life’s pinpoint heart at a properly healthy and enthusiastic pace. Mom was gleeful, and dad had tears of joy in his eyes. Now, much more than just a mere plus sign on a stick, or a breathless exclamation, it was real. There, right there  is my child and that is her heartbeat.

“I love her already” he thought to himself, cherishing and relishing the moment. Mom was flush and beside herself with joy. The sun was shining brightly. Very, very, brightly on that very, very beautiful day.

The next week something happened. Mom didn’t feel quite right — something was just “wrong.”

Another trip to the OBGYN was scheduled. The news was not good — it was not what the exuberant couple wished to hear.

Kelsey Amara was no more this side of the sky

We all know of many similar personal tragedies. Not one life has been immune to this sting, or will never be painfully stung. Sooner or later everyone encounters such a loss, or knows someone close who has. To my knowledge you typically don’t get out of this life without dying.

The hardest question I can imagine trying to answer is “Why” when somebody, anybody, experiences such a terrible and seemingly unjust loss. How can it be explained? It really can’t. Not here. We are operating too much in darkness to see any light in such dramatically trying situations. Our spiritual lens is too smoky and dirty from the thick dust clouds of this ragged life. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:12:

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

Our obscuring, hindering “shades” will be removed one day; but for now they are pretty well locked in place.

But think about this:

What really even makes it from this Earth to eternity anyway? What really even survives the wide chasm from here to there? Everything? Anything?

No, the only thing that survives — the only thing, essentially, that lasts forever — is love. Love, the sweet essence of our Lord’s character towards us, his children. Love is the only thing that successfully reflects from heaven to earth and back to heaven again. Nothing else makes that round trip successfully. Nothing.

So, if love is the only thing that successfully survives this planet, what comes of all the plans we laid — the tremendous efforts expended? Our degrees, our careers, the successes and failures of our lives, riches and blessings, even? What stories remain? What of the houses, cars, lifestyles, experiences, heartbreaks — and what of the tragedies? Especially, what of the tragedies?

Nothing of it remains.

All that remains from this dark and dusty side of the sky — aside from the core element of our soul — is the raw, basic, eternal element of love. Love, that once shone from heaven’s light down into our lives, and then reflected back, is all.

Love.

So, I know right now, if you are one of the souls earnestly seeking a pain-relieving answer for why tragedies happen (even to good people), this is not likely to be of much help. But it is true, as I understand things. And eventually, as the pain alleviates somewhat (it may not alleviate quickly or even ever while here), perhaps the realization will sink in that the essence that was intended by God to last forever, will last forever.

And even if that one, single peach I spoke of earlier never took root and grew, its sweetness will last forever in eternity — in love — just as fully as if it fell to the richest soil and grew over time to be a beautiful grove.

Nothing is forever lost that was meant to forever be. Nothing. And love was meant to be.

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