There is a lot of preparation and build-up that goes into planning a vacation. Reservations have to be confirmed and commitments have to be made. With my family, this is not an easy task. So, when the day finally arrives, there is excitement in the mere fact that we pulled it all together. There is little time to think about anything else and I think that’s the way it should be. But there are fleeting moments that bring us back to why we have come to be together on this special day.
Our hearts are wrapped around a tree on a narrow dirt road in Tifton, GA. For us, there is no way to bypass exit 55 and no way to get to Florida without taking a drive down Adcock Road. It begins as an overpass of I-75. There are no trees or fields of grass, just concrete, steel, and the noisy sound of traffic. But within a few hundred yards, the scenery quickly changes. The pavement crumbles into dirt and a canopy of trees shade this quiet country road. At first glance, it appears to be long and wide with a few rolling hills to break up the straight lines of the road. But years of grading has pushed the dirt into a soft powdery shoulder that gives way under foot and leaves you standing in a ditch on either side.
Along this ditch stands a tall pine tree with two spots of bark missing from the trunk. A stainless steel plaque is chained to the front with the boys’ names, dates, and the phrase coined by their friends, “Be Wise and Remember the Storm.” Bright yellow ribbons and flowers make the tree stand out amongst the lush green landscape and small trinkets are tucked neatly in the cavities of the plaque: A penny, wristbands, a bright orange cap, and a stainless steel lightning bolt.
As I stood in front of the tree, I was once again amazed at how quiet and peaceful it was. The silence was deafening. Even when the rain began, I could hear it in the leaves as they gave way to the tiny drops of water that fell to the ground. I don’t know when my journey to the tree will end or if it ever will. You might think this is the last place on earth I would want to visit, but it is the lasts that keep me coming. The last song, the last laugh, the last thought, the last breath—the last road.