This is a small family of trees (or perhaps they are the same tree) growing valiantly on the beach in Bembridge, Isle of Wight, where I went to school. This stretch of beach is deserted, and wilder than the more popular coasts on the island. As a teenager, I loved its desolation, though I often wondered fleetingly then why these trees bothered growing here, struggling against the fierce elements.

Then, as I got older and more philosophical with age, I think that these trees grow here to teach us a lesson, should we wish to learn it.  Life is easy for some (like the relatives of these trees growing in calmer parts) and life is less easy than others.  BUT (and that is a big BUT), we all, like trees, have the capacity to cope with the hardships.

From the tree’s centre (or ‘heartwood’), love radiates outwards.  The xylem and phloem nurture the tree with the goodness that exists in the world. The cambium layer builds the living layer that resides just beneath the tree bark, and each year, as the tree grows, it leaves its woody layer behind, progressively building layers with each successive year that we see if we cut a cross-section across the trunk.

Isn’t this just like the human being? We grow, but we carry our life stories with us forever. Those who deeply love us know our deeper layers, and love the tree all the more despite the imperfections within.

But the message I want to spread it, hardships often cause the tree to lose its branches. Those trees that grow on the savage coastline of Bembridge do not have the capability to run away from its hardships (sometimes, we can’t, too) but by staying and enduring, its cambium will cast a healthy layer over what that had once been the scar of the broken branch. With love, new layers will be build with each successive year until one year, the life stories that follow after the period of hardship will overcome the loss completely.

So, my choice always is to be like a tree that stays despite the hardships, believing in my own ability to heal me, because loss is part of life, until one day, life is no more. As my priest said today, patience and endurance. I find that beautiful, because we can’t always run away and nor can we choose our environment in many cases. We just have here and now, and our faith.