Neil MacDonald (see Neil's poem, Voices of War, in 'A Place for Poets')
My husband's voice rang out in the forest, and everyone scattered to the four winds. The giant tree creaked and groaned in protest. The tree was dead, but perversely, I wanted to step forward and take the weight of it in my arms. Catch it before it could hit the ground and disappear forever. It was a fine old tree, and I didn't want to say goodbye to it.
I closed my eyes and turned away, tensed for a resounding crash to split the air around us. Instead, silence filled the space where we waited.
A crowd of us gathered around the tree. The top half wasn't lying on the ground. It had opted, instead, to take its place alongside its original home. It was as if someone had snapped the tree in half, and like me, couldn't bear to part them.
Like an old married couple, the two halves of the tree stand almost knitted together. One rooted in its surroundings; the other one a symbol of perseverance and steadfastness.
Against all odds - including storms that have swept away larger and mightier trees - this tree simply would not acknowledge defeat.
Now that the long-awaited Beijing 2008 Olympic Games are underway, I'm reminded of what it takes to stand tall in the face of storms. To know who you are, stand up for your beliefs, and persevere even when the odds are decidedly against you.
As I read about four Special Olympics athletes from East Asia who were selected as Olympic torchbearers, the true story about a Special Olympics athlete's road to gold came to mind.
In "Spirit, Courage & Resolve, A Special Olympics Athlete's Road To Gold", Tom Lambke wrote about his son's journey from his birth in 1981 - the moment he "knew that our beautiful boy had Down syndrome and that our lives were about to change forever" - to the podium at the 2003 International Special Olympics in Dublin, Ireland.
Throughout Bryan's life, friends and family have seen only ability in his disability. Standing together, they look only to the future, accept Bryan for who he is, and "work with him lovingly."
I visit my twin trees, from time to time. Just like Bryan Lambke, his peers, and all the people who stand solidly beside them, they are symbols of standing tall in the face of life's challenges, and persevering even when storms threaten to take them down.
When the greater community stands shoulder-to-shoulder, with one unified voice, a seismic shift in the collective consciousness will occur, changing forever how people view those who've been labeled 'different'.
For information on Down syndrome, consider reading Bryan and Tom Lambke's "I Just Am: A Story of Down Syndrome Awareness and Tolerance."