Sunday we had a violent thunderstorm.  Wind and rain, 1 1/2 inches in 20 minutes.  When it was over, the massive sugar maple that adorns the corner of our yard lost another limb--a big limb.

During the winter, it lost one significant limb and when we saw the level of deterioration where the leaders joined the trunk, we knew the tree was on borrowed time.  But with only that one limb gone, the tree was still pretty and we decided to see how long it would last.

Sunday's second limb left the tree irreparably scarred and off balance.  We knew it had to come down.

But this was not any old tree in the woods.  It was about 8 inches in diameter and perhaps 15 years old when our family came to the farm in 1961.  Since then, it has grown in girth and magnificence, a key fixture in our yardscape. 

We located our picnic table under its canopy.  Countless birds raised babies in the shelter of its branches and entertained us with their music and antics whenever we were nearby.  Most years we tapped it for sap and it yielded many delightful maple syrup-topped pancakes.  Most intimate for us, however, was the treehouse I built in it for the children when they got old enough to enjoy such things.

Careful not to attach anything to the tree that would wound it, I strapped the treehouse in with heavy nylon rope.  Even the access ladder was freestanding; putting nails, bolts or screws in trees around here is a cardinal sin.  Daniel and Rachel enjoyed countless hours of play time in the treehouse.  Teresa and I joined them up there from time to time, but it was primarily child territory.

Yesterday we cut our old friend down to save further harm to cars or people, but it still wasn't easy.  Just by expressing its treeness, it served many functions for a long long time.  Now a gaping hole yawns from the large area adorned by this magnificent tree.  Pictures of our house and yard will not look the same.  All we have are precious memories. 

Even while we grieve over the loss, though, we've discovered little sapling daughters in the nearby flowerbed.  We'll plant 2 or 3 near the old stump and in a couple of years one of these will establish herself as the superior offspring of a magnficent matriarch.  May she be for our grandchildren what this precious old friend has been for us.

Have you ever befriended a plant?