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When she was five, she found a six foot sapling growing between her father's alfalfa fields. As the years passed, she would take her troubles to the shady spot beneath her tree, often sitting beneath it to savor the luscious purple fruit the tree bore. Eventually, she grew older, left home for school, and traded her promise ring for vows that would last her a lifetime. Her parents sold the family dairy farm when she was in her forties. Before the sale was finalized, she went to visit her childhood home. Her favorite plum tree was still there, but time, and weather had been unkind. A streak of lightning had scorched and killed it. Now the tree of her youth stood desolate, blackened and barren in the autumnal twilight. On her way back to the city, she kept a watchful eye on the road, yet thought about the companionship the tree had provided during times of distress.

Monday morning, nostalgic tears welled up as she drove. She brushed them away at four way stop, and chided herself for being foolish. After all, what good was an old dead plum tree? But the leafless branches disturbed her lunch hour, and the waving grasses in a farmer's field she passed on the way home reminded her that she owed a debt to her lifeless friend. Saturday morning she arose early, dressed warmly, and headed out before the rest of her house was awake. In the garage, she found her father's chainsaw. Although it was heavy in her hands, she was surprised to find that it wasn't the intimidating monster she remembered her father wielding. She had never used it before, but the tree yielded despite her inexperience. After the tree fell, she trimmed off smaller branches, sawed the trunk into logs, and went back to the garage for her dad's riding lawn mower.

Moving day was an emotional event. After a bath in the tub that needed replacing, she donned her robe, and headed back downstairs. Alone in the drafty living room her parents were leaving, she built a fire, lit it, and poured herself a glass of wine. Heat from the fire warmed her aching body. Her worn woolen slippers slid off of her feet, as she slipped into dreamland. When her lover arrived, he smiled to himself as he picked up her half empty glass. Glowing embers chased the chill from the windows that needed to be replaced. He poked at the last fire he would see in that farmhouse, thinking of the time his daughter had nearly fallen into a larger, roaring fire on her seventh birthday. Tonight's blaze was less threatening, a comforting reminder of Christmas past. He carried his wife upstairs, but came down to check on the fire before retiring for the night. When he was gone, the dying coals sighed, happy that they had discovered usefulness after death by being of service to others.

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