Just over a month ago, I pulled out the last of our tomato plants for the year. The job had been waiting for several weeks already, and I finally had a sunny day when I didn’t feel pulled in other directions to focus on that and get it done.
As I cut the strings I’d used to hold the plants up in a woven-style system, I watched as each one drooped down further and further, its crown touching the earth it grew from. Four months earlier, these had been strong, healthy plants—sending out far more branches and leaves than I knew how to manage! It would have been a tough job to break the main stems in half, even had I tried to do so. But now—a simple pull and the dead branches parted without a struggle.
I pulled the strings out, keeping the ones that looked stronger, newer, and throwing the remainder—the second- and third-year strings—on the compost pile. One day, they’ll reenter our garden as fertilizer.
Then I pulled the willow posts out—ones that had been fresh, green wood at the beginning of the summer—which were now rotten off at the base, only worth finding their place in the firewood pile.
The plants came out next, rowed up in a neat furrow where, over the winter, all traces of what was once strong, vibrant green are now turning back into the soil they grew from.
How strong . . . and yet how fragile.
Yet as I think about my life—about how one day I could be strong, fit, and healthy and then facing a life-altering diagnosis or even death the next—I see myself in that rowed-up pile of dead vines.
We are all so strong, so full of life. And yet—something happens, and that’s the end.
Dust to dust.
Just like that.
I don’t tend to ponder my own mortality much, because apart from wondering how painful it could be to die, I’m not actually scared of death. I’m looking forward to what’s coming after—Jesus, and all the ones I love that are now on that side instead of this one.
It’s going to be beautiful. Way better than I can even imagine.
For now—the row of dead tomato vines, once mounded up, is slowly disappearing into the soil. The roll of tomato string supports was slid back onto its shelf is now waiting for another season. The rose trimmings are piled on the compost heap, waiting for the worms and weather and time to work their magic.
And next spring, when the earth seems to breathe in new life again, I’ll marvel at the absence of these things I can see now—these feeble, breakable branches—and at the presence of the One who designed perfect systems for use and recycling, strength and fragility, and value in many more levels than immediately meets the eye.
Have you been pondering any deep life lessons lately?