Memorializing Paul’s Tree

I spent some time today taking photos of the tree we’ve had in our front yard for the last thirteen plus years. We have come to call itIMG_1546 Paul’s tree because we had it planted on the first year anniversary of Paul’s death. I’ve mentioned it here in the past after a particularly bad trimming job (see December 5, 2010, June 30, 2012, and July 22, 2012). Unfortunately, I won’t have to complain about that anymore. Next week our gardeners are going to remove it completely, and we’ll replace it with a much smaller and less invasive substitute.

I’m also memorialized it in a poem just published in True Words from Real Women: An Anthology of Life Writing by the Women of the Story Circle Network (November 2013).


Fixing the Broken Pipe

Fixing the Broken Pipe


Paul’s Tree


It has to be a climbing tree, I say

to replace the one

he used to climb as a boy,

to remind me of him

sitting in the wide Vee

of the upper branches

smiling and proud

of his climbing success.

I settle on a small coral tree

that promises pinky orange blooms

and strong branches for climbing and sitting

and place it in its designated spot

exactly one year after his death.

In the thirteen years since,

Paul’s tree has produced

dark green leaves

the coral flowers are few

and branches that shoot out

wide and tall from its

IMG_1552four ever-thickening trunks.

When it gets its yearly trim.

I cry, don’t take too much away,

but the hackers always do.

Except they can’t fix its damage.

The driveway cracked and

last week the plumbers

dug a hole as deep as a grave

that butted against it,

chopping away its roots

to take out a broken pipe.

They shake their heads and say,

It has to go or your troubles will never stop.

I shake my head no.

But I know it’s grown too large.

Its roots undermine and its thick

and full branches let no sun shine through.

The day will have to come to replace it

with some red-blooming wispy thing,

and a single miniature trunk that will do

no boy who likes to climb any good.




  1. Madeline, your heart-wrenching poem leaves me at a loss for words. So lovely. So bittersweet. Sending hugs.

  2. Madeline Sharples says

    Thank you for your always kind words, Kathy. So glad to see you here. Hugs back to you, M.


  1. […] And even though proposal writing won’t make me rich either, it will help me pay for replacing Paul’s tree, installing a new irrigation system that will conserve water, and planting more much needed […]

  2. […] on the first anniversary of  our son Paul’s death. We had to because the tree we called  Paul’s Tree was undermining our property.  We have finally planted a […]

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