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The Parable of
THE GROWING BRANCH
Clyde missed Sandy more than ever, now that she was gone. She lost her brief struggle with cancer on their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary. Although Clyde wasn’t the devoted churchgoer that Sandy always wanted him to be, he still sensed her presence all around him. He wanted to believe she had gone to heaven, and returned to him as an angel to comfort him. He wanted a lot of things. He was sorry that he wasn’t the man she tried to make him into.
When she first died, he was at a loss for what to do with himself, since he had just retired. She had always been a part of his daily routine. When she passed away, it left a vacancy in his soul, so deep that it filled him with remorse. He was so sorry about all her birthdays and anniversaries that he forgot, all the Valentine’s Days that passed without flowers for her, and all the Christmas presents that he didn’t bother to wrap. He had been so occupied with his own activities; he didn’t count her feelings as a priority. He took her for granted, and she knew it; but she loved him anyway. For that, he would always be devoted to her.
During the first summer after her death, he was so lonely that he made a memorial for her. He set her photograph on her nightstand, and spoke to her as though she were really there. But he still felt an emptiness that he couldn’t quite define.
On the first Christmas after her death, he decided to go to the church that she always attended, to see if he could feel her spirit there. He was warmly received at the door, even though they did not know who he was. When he told them he was Sandy’s husband, they gave their condolences, made sure he was comfortable, and asked if he needed any help around the house. They were so compassionate; he wished he had been going to church all along. He could have used their help with the funeral arrangements when Sandy died.
After a few weeks of attending their services, he decided to go to Sunday school after church. He hadn’t done that since he was a child. He now found it rather interesting, and it helped pass away the time. A few months later, he began to feel like he belonged there. He was learning everyone’s name, and they knew his as well.
One Sunday, the Boy Scout Master approached him. “Clyde”, he said, “I’m taking the older boys on a camping trip, and we need an extra man to go with us. I know you have survival training, and I wondered if you’d be willing to help. It’s scheduled for the three-day weekend coming up.”
Clyde found himself smiling. He had always loved the outdoors, but he always went camping alone because Sandy didn’t enjoy it. He wished, not for the first time, that they had been able to have children. He would have loved to have sons to take with him on camping and fishing trips.
“Sounds great!” Clyde said.
He and the boys wound up having a great time. He loved to teach them all the things he had learned from his experiences. They kept him on his toes, though. He forgot how much energy young boys had. They all bonded by the end of the first day. It was good to be needed again. Before the trip was over, they all made him promise to take them to the caves in the desert to look for Indian Petroglyphs, pictures painted on the walls inside the caves.
In the meantime, he began attending the Scout meetings, and was soon asked to be Assistant Scout Master. He accepted the invitation. He kept the boys busy with learning and growing in fun ways. Like a growing seed, he began to come back to life and grow, too. He took the boys on so many adventures, that none of them had a chance to get bored with the program. In fact, the Scout membership grew considerably during the first year after he got involved.
Every night, Clyde talked about his day to the Sandy in the picture frame. When he went on camp-outs with the Scouts, he brought her along in a wallet photo. He began to feel the comfort of her presence wherever he went.
When her birthdays came along, he bought her small presents, had the store wrap it beautifully, and he left it on her nightstand. At Thanksgiving, he wrote her thank-you letters about how much he appreciated the things she had done, and he also left these by her picture. At Christmastime, he bought her sentimental presents, which he wrapped by himself, and left them on her nightstand as well. He only wished that he had done all these things while she was still alive.
Clyde stayed active in many church activities until he died at the ripe old age of 93. He was well loved by friends, neighbors, relatives, and even some strangers. When his family came to claim his belongings, they found the stacks of presents he had bought for Sandy after she died.
When he found out for himself that Sandy really was in heaven, she told him that the best present he gave her in the end was the gift of a perfect husband; perfected by love.
THE GROWING BRANCH (John 15:1-2)
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”