The other day, I was having lunch with a friend, and talking about my dad, who recently passed away. She’d attended the service for him, and we were talking about his character and attributes. We were also talking about how many people came to me, and other family members, after the service, and expressed how inspired they were by the stories about my dad.

“It seems to me, that, even in death, Dad is still impacting lives,” I said.

My friend replied: “He’s a nurse tree.”

When I asked what that meant, she said, “Look it up.”

So I did.

Wikipedia (I know, I know, but it’s a good, condensed description and supported as valid by many other sites) says that a nurse tree is “a larger, faster-growing tree that shelters a small, slower-growing tree or plant. The nurse tree can provide shade, shelter from wind, or protection from animals who would feed on the smaller plant.”

As a father, grandfather, pastor, counselor and mentor, Dad was a natural nurturer. He was not obnoxious or overbearing about dispensing advice; he settled in to relationship, listening more than talking (unless he was telling a hunting or fishing story!), and offering sage wisdom when asked. I have many memories of going to him for counsel over the years, and I always came away with clarity and hope.

So, the nurse tree provides shelter and protection to the younger trees. But, there’s more! When a nurse tree falls in the forest, “it creates a light gap. Young trees sprout up in this light gap, and other, partially mature trees, thrive in the additional sun. Nurse logs – fallen and decaying trees – allow a seedling to gain root and then feed the young trees with the energy they contain. Later, the new trees grow and spread roots around the fallen log. Over time, a nurse log returns to the soil, and the newly grown tree looks as if it grew up with legs.”

This is how the mighty have fallen. The mighty in spirit, in soul, in character and wisdom. This is how they fall. And all the generations around that fallen tree now have the life of Virgil Lawrence nurturing our roots, and a light gap to reach toward. His life, even once passed, gives life to those around it, so we can faster become taller, stronger, and look like we grew up with legs.

Thank you, Dad.