When Everything Points to Death & Destruction

By Laurel Payne Guy

Southern Live Oak

When I was 11-years-old, my mama, C. C. Payne, bought Southern Live Oak seeds. The thing is, we’re from Kentucky, and Southern Live Oaks aren’t native to Kentucky—winters are too cold for them. But my mama potted the seeds anyway. There were three pots, two of which sprouted. One of the two died within a year. The other, the only one with a double trunk, continued growing. We kept the pot inside for two years, giving the root system time to grow strong.

Then, one summer, we planted the Southern Live Oak in our backyard. When a man with a Masters degree in Horticulture came to visit, Mama pointed out the little tree to him. He simply said, “It will die here.” Even so, when the weather cooled, Mama made a greenhouse for the tree out of Saranwrap and tape, which sheltered it from the harsh months. She did the same thing the next year. But when the third winter came, the tree had grown too large for a makeshift green house. We just had to hope that the tree’s root system had grown down deep enough and strong enough for it to survive on its own.

Then the ice storm hit, knocking out power and covering everything with a thick layer of ice. Once that ice melted away, all remanence of green on that little tree melted away with it. It stood in our yard, brown and skeletal. Mama went out to it and broke off a branch: the inside was brown too—no signs of life. We had to face the fact that the tree my mama had babied and fussed over for five years was dead.

When spring came, and no signs of life came with it, Mama finally said that she was going to dig the tree up because it made her sad to look at it. I said no and begged her to wait a little longer. I remember sitting in the window seat overlooking that little tree and praying for it. Mama prayed for it too. And then, come June, I’ll be darned if we didn’t look out our window one morning to find green leaves growing. Now, eight years after the ice storm, our Southern Live Oak is a good 16 feet tall.

Ours is one of six Southern Live Oaks known to be living in the state of Kentucky. It stands as a symbol of hope, faith, and resurrection, a reminder that even when all signs point to death and destruction, the Author of life has the final word.

He is risen! Happy Easter!

Our Southern Live Oak, my mama, and Peach in 2019

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