What’s Your ‘Why’? May 21, 2021

I was startled awake by the sounds of cracking and crashing. Living on a heavily wooded lot, I knew a tree had fallen. Since I’d felt no impact on the house, I wasn’t too worried. Still, I got up to check it out.

The scene through the front windows was ordinary. All trees were standing just where they always were. As I entered the kitchen, the light from outside seemed less bright than usual. My brain struggled to come to terms with the reason for the diminished light. I couldn’t see outside the kitchen window because a huge tree filled the patio and blocked everything beyond the porch.

I quickly ran out the side door and gaped, wide-eyed and open-mouthed, at the destruction. A 70-foot tall maple tree had snapped off 30 feet above the ground and now covered most of the backyard. It had hit the patio dead center and completely barricaded the porch door. My one thought was, “How are we going to clean this up?” Knowing that the porch was the quick escape route for the two downstairs bedrooms, I became obsessed with clearing a path out of the house.

I returned upstairs to wake my husband and get dressed. Explaining what had happened, I realized that he could have been killed.  If the tree had snapped off at the base, it would have come through the roof, crushing him! Of course, he thought I was exaggerating. Once dressed and outside surveying the scene, he quickly changed his mind. We were both shaken by how narrowly we had avoided a disaster.

Over the next few hours, everyone in the family, including my 92-year-old mom, helped clear the tree branches from blocking the porch door. At last, I began to unearth the patio furniture.  The lighter branches at the top had pushed along the two resin wicker armchairs. Neither of them was on the patio, but both were intact. I couldn’t say the same for the small round table. A heavy branch had smashed it flat. Rescuing it would have to wait until help came in the form of a tree service that could cut the tree into manageable pieces and haul it away.

When the tree was finally cleared away, my husband put the little table out with the trash. Knowing that the conversation area on the patio needed to include a table, I went to work looking for a replacement online. After hours of searching, I hadn’t found a suitable table that sold as a single piece. Since I didn’t need two more chairs, I decided to rescue the original table from the trash. That’s when the fun began.

The table base consisted of a resin wicker “skin” wrapped around three iron legs and joined in the middle and at the top by circles of iron. The base was no longer circular but flat. The iron was so strong that I knew my meager arm muscles wouldn’t be able to pry the legs apart. What I needed was the “jaws of life” that fire departments use to extract people from wrecked cars. I sat sipping my coffee, wondering if my local FD would loan me their “jaws of life.” Inspired by that thought, I remembered that my husband had a hydraulic jack!

Using the jack and several small pieces of 2 x 4’s, I worked to open a gap large enough to insert the jack. It was painstaking, exhausting work. Yet, it was also rewarding. Millimeter by millimeter, I made progress until I had gotten the table base open enough to stand the table up. It was woefully lopsided. There was no way that it would be usable as a table. I was beyond tired, so I quit for the day.

Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, says that people who turn life’s difficulties into achievements are those who find meaning in their situations.  Maybe that’s why I never like to give up.  I search for meaning in even the most mundane occurrences because the search itself gives my life meaning.  Perhaps it’s as simple as Freidrich Nietzsche’s statement:  “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”  To me, the table represents my use of the Divine Creative Power, coupled with human ingenuity, and the joy I feel when I persist and succeed.  Who needs more “why” than that?

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