• Alicia Assad

A Reflection on the Fragility of Life

Cherry blossoms....

I have always loved them; it's easy fall in love with these flowering trees, which remind us spring is upon us.

Even my kids understand my affinity for the pinkish-hued branches, which line the streets on the way to their schools in April. Earlier this week, my daughter said,

"Mom, look! The cherry blossoms are blooming. You love cherry blossoms!"

Yes, these trees remind me to choose hope, a significance which manifested as I labored for hours for my third child, fixated on a cherry blossom beyond the window of my room in the hospital.

During a difficult time, just three days out of a month-long ordeal in and out of the burn unit with my toddler, I gave birth to a baby with a birth defect so severe I was told he would need surgery by three days old.

Having seen already seen a child through a life-threatening injury and two surgeries during the final month of my pregnancy, I was bracing for the worst.

On the leaves of that tree outside my window, I prayed. I pulled myself away from the physical pain of labor and the anxiety in my mind with the beauty of nature.

I found peace and serenity during a tumultuous time because of a tree.

The cherry blossom in full bloom I chose to notice gave me hope: the world can be dark, but also incredibly beautiful.

When my son was born, he did not need immediate surgery. Given his grave prognosis over months of sonograms, this seemed nothing short of a miracle.

I held him for hours after birth and parted with him only when I noticed my arms were becoming weak and I needed to sleep.

As I nestled in to rest, I gazed one last time at that tree outside my window. I found myself struck by the thought that life suddenly felt different. There was resolution and relief: a reason for joy.

The cherry blossom was there with beauty to behold both in hardship and triumph; we can choose to notice the beauty around us in any moment.

On the four year anniversary of this experience I recall, I baked cupcakes with this miracle baby of mine who has grown into a charming, fun-loving boy.

I am often awe struck by his zest for life. Henry finds excitement in the smallest of things and on this particular birthday, he spent the day either breaking into random song and dance out of joy. In between these moments he continually said,

"Mamma - this is the best day ever!"

Sometimes I just want to bottle up his innocent, wide-eyed wonderment so I can see the world through his perspective. Despite these valuable lessons I have learned, and the growth I have experienced in the aftermath of adversity, I still forget to focus on beauty and joy. Having stood at the precipice of unfathomable loss, a keen understanding about the fragility of life leaves me in fear that tragedy is a breath away.

I continually remind myself to worry less, and savor when I can. These positive moments I collect in my memory are what will sustain me should I face adversity again.

I have been savoring the cherry blossoms that surround me this past week, so they are prevalent on my mind. My urge to craft this Friday morning reflection around a tree inspired me to do a quick Google search on their meaning. A Huffington Post article tells me this,

“The significance of the cherry blossom tree in Japanese culture goes back hundreds of years. In their country, the cherry blossom represents the fragility and the beauty of life. It’s a reminder that life is almost overwhelmingly beautiful but that it is also tragically short. When the cherry blossom trees bloom for a short time each year in brilliant force, they serve as a visual reminder of how precious and how precarious life is.”

That’s it. That’s all. That’s why: savor when you can.