The tall apple tree in the corner of the garden seemed to be humming a low tune as the cool evening breeze rustled through the leaves. An old woman hesitantly made her way down the porch steps, leaning heavily on her cane until she reached the security of a rocking chair under the trees. She pushed the wisps of snowy white hair from her face, sighed wearily and relaxed against the faded cushions. Then her eyes closed.
Soon the old tree seemed to be speaking as the wind gently rocked its branches. "Dear old friend," it whispered, "life has dealt harshly with both of us since you as a young bride helped with the building of this home and garden, and the passing years have left their scars. It may be true that we are nearing the end of our days, but be comforted in the knowledge that everything on this earth has a purpose to serve, and there is neither great nor small in the sight of the Divine. Each one has his part to play in the scheme of things. Do not think of yourself as too old to be needed nor pray that you be allowed to die. That is wrong.
"Look at me. I may be old and broken, but still the nesting birds find shelter here and my boughs serve as a place of refuge and rest for them. My arms are outstretched to give cool shade to you and others who pause beneath my branches. Children laugh and play at my feet. I still can serve."
For a moment only the melody of evening sounds could be heard in the garden, then the soft voice continued: "You have felt the cruel and bitter winds of many a winter. Though feeble and nearly blind, yet your voice is warm and soothing to the heavy-hearted who seek your counsel. For many, your faith and hope dissolve the fears of today. Your gnarled hands seem tender and soft when you comfort those who weep. Take courage, my dear friend, for you too are needed. Go now and fulfill your destiny."
The words faded into the sighing of the wind. Slowly the old woman roused and opened her eyes. She listened for a moment to the singing of the leaves. Reaching out, she placed a gentle hand on the tree-trunk, then with a smile got to her feet and once more carefully made her way up the path to the house.
(From Sunrise magazine, January 1954; copyright © 1954 Theosophical University Press)