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Where the Tree Falls the Forest Rises: Stories of Death and Renewal

One change that death brings to the bereaved is rarely discussed -- the power of death to generate new life in those who loved the deceased.

Where the Tree Falls, the Forest Rises* is a collection of true stories that offer an intimate glimpse into personal renewal following the death of a loved one. Each a unique voice in varied circumstances, these first-hand accounts illustrate how ordinary people find a way to integrate the death of their beloved into a forever-changed life. How this integration unfolds and when is as varied as the people writing their stories. For example:

  • When her baby brother dies, ten-year-old Kate discovers new life in the power of words and poetry.

  • Doreen writes a letter to her husband on what would be their 25th wedding anniversary, realizing that she has now lived without him for almost as long as she had lived with him.

  • For Nancy and Becky, the seeds of the change take root as they support their sister-in-law in her dying process.

  • John, a funeral director, sees his work with new eyes when his own father dies.

  • After a prom night car accident kills a teenage boy, the community discovers a strength they didn't know they had in helping his family care for his body at home.

I am a different person than I was before the death of my mother, Arlene, who died of chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Her ability to face death without fear and with a great deal of practicality had a profound effect on me. Within a year I became a hospice volunteer. Two years later I co-founded the Threshold Care Circle, a non-profit organization that educates and empowers families and communities to care for their dead at home. New traditions are emerging in the small rural community where I live, as mourners gather in the family home instead of the funeral home, as they sing their goodbyes while the departed loved one is carried in a hand-decorated coffin to the family van. Ten years after Mom's death, I began learning to play the harp so I could provide therapeutic music for the dying, which is the work I do now. My mother's death planted the seeds for all that change.

This anthology covers all relationship categories: mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, spouses/sweethearts, extended family, friends, community. It includes photos submitted by the storytellers of their loved ones.

* Title is a line taken from Wendell Berry's poem, The Rising.

* Excerpt from The Rising, by Wendell Berry

There is a grave, too, in each

survivor. By it, the dead one lives.

He enters us, a broken blade,

sharp, clear as a lens or mirror.

Like a wound, grief receives him.

Like graves, we heal over, and yet keep

as part of ourselves the severe gift.

By grief, more inward than darkness,

the dead become the intelligence of life.

Where the tree falls, the forest rises.

There is nowhere to stand but in absence,

no life but in the fateful light.

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