Story By Michelle Barg
In honor of Roy Yarbrough (1914-2001)
Papa was a quiet man when I finally met him in 1987. He was 73 years old, and I was lucky to add him to my family. He stepped right into my heart, filling the space left behind by my grandfathers.
Papa had grown up in a little town in northeast Florida, eldest of 10 children. He could do it all and probably had done it all at some point in his life.
Papa didn’t talk a lot, but when he did speak, it usually was a story with some weight to it. It wasn’t just an old man rambling on — there was a lesson to be learned.
I would delight in listening to him tell me stories about my new husband — stories of George growing up under his wing. I loved to hear the stories about George as a young boy spending his weekends in the north Florida woods hunting with his Papa, or at Papa’s gas station, or helping in the garden behind Papa’s house.
Papa was a quiet, religious man. He never was one to preach to others. Two of his brothers were Pastors at local churches — he left the preaching to them. The little comments he made and the stories he told shed some light into his beliefs and his love of God.
On April 8th, we made a trip to my parents’ house for my father’s birthday celebration. My husband was quietly driving the family up the Turnpike. I was occupied in the front passenger seat by a book, while the kids were being much too quiet in the back seat engrossed with a Gameboy and a coloring book.
I noticed out of the corner of my eye that my husband was straining to look out my window. This startled me, since his eyes should be on the long road in front of him. I asked him what he was looking at out the windows, and he quietly replied, “Nothing.” His eyes went back to the road in front of him.
After a few minutes, I looked over at my husband and noticed a tear running down his cheek. I asked him what was wrong. This time he told me, “I was just thinking about Papa and a story he used to tell me.” Of course, if it had to do with Papa I needed to know the story, so I asked him to share it with me.
He said, “When I was about 3 years old, Papa took me out in the backyard and told me that the Pine trees know when it is Easter.”
I had no idea what he meant by that, so I pressed him for more information. He continued on… “The Pine trees start their new growth in the weeks before Easter — if you look at the tops of the Pine trees two weeks before, you will see the yellow shoots. As the days get closer to Easter Sunday, the tallest shoot will branch off and form a cross. By the time Easter Sunday comes around, you will see that most of the Pine trees will have small yellow crosses on the tallest shoots.”
I turned to look out the window and I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was a week before Easter, and you could see all the trees with the tall yellow shoots stretching to Heaven.
The tallest ones shone in the sunlight like rows of tiny golden crosses.