Nuha Syed

2016-2017 Live Deliberately Essay Contest

Nuha Syed, 16
Winner, 14-16 Age Group
Teaneck High School
Teaneck, New Jersey

Consciously Cultivating

I cannot express the gratitude towards my mother for the countless burdens she has incurred on my behalf.  I am the fruit she bore and she is my tree.  In her pod, I found warmth and nutrition for nine months. Meanwhile, she read to me and prayed for me to be the healthy person that I am. Finally, when I was ripe, she bore several hours of excruciating pain so that I could be delivered naturally. As if this was not enough, the sap from her bosom nourished me as she sacrificed her night and day for my selfish needs for almost two years. Her nourishment made me healthy, strong, and smart. Then, the most horrific thing happened; the tree that bore two healthy fruits had succumbed to a disease and was on the verge of returning to soil.

This was my opportunity to cultivate the tree, but I was too little.  I had just begun my first year at school and I could not understand why the tree was drooping.  The once vibrant, strong standing tree that comforted me could not even wrap its twigs around me to give me the hugs that I looked forward to daily. I did the only thing that I know I could, I wrapped my hands around her and hugged her as I lay next to her in bed.  It seemed like a lifetime that she lay in bed, her leaves had fallen and now there was a round bark left where once her long black hairs were; the same black hairs that she flipped over her head and chased me pretending to be a monster wanting to eat me up. Despite her weakness, she was always seeking ways to grow her roots and now with her time off from work she started volunteering locally and at school. This helped her feel useful at a time when she was physically weakened. Months later, the tree’s color came back, her leaves started to sprout, and most importantly, the twigs that were droopy were strong and firm to hug the fruit again.

During my mother’s ordeal, I saw my grandmother take care of her, my brother and me. Not a day goes by that I am [not] grateful for the opportunity to have my mother and my grandmother in my life. They are the most thoughtful people I know, always giving of themselves and putting others before their own needs.  My grandmother was there tirelessly and efficiently, continuously taking care of us.  Thoreau is on the mark when he states “old trees are our parents, and our parents’ parents.” No matter how old the trees get, they still continue to provide shade and comfort from the harsh elements of nature that come in many forms.

I have learned so much from my “parent and parents’ parent”. At an early age, I learned to cultivate the tree that bore me. I chose to live my life deliberately as if this was the last day with my grandmother, and as if this was the last day I have with my mother, and as if this was the last day I have on this soil. Not a day goes by that we do not hug and express our love for each other.    My mother’s “failure”, her illness, was actually a “success” since it instilled upon me the valuable lesson of being grateful for what I have and never taking each day that I have with them for granted.  This is what Thoreau meant when he stated “all the past is equally a failure and a success; it is a success in as much as it offers you the present opportunity.”

I am grateful for the opportunity of almost losing a loved one as it taught me to cultivate not only my relationship with my parent and parent’s parent, but with neighbors, friends, teachers, and especially those who are less fortunate.  As a child, it was instilled in me to give back to the community in any way that I could.  At first, it was simple things like donating clothes that did not fit me. Then, it was walks for causes. Later, it was volunteering and raising funds. The fruits of my labor are ever present in the eyes of the children I tutored successfully. My cultivation has come to fruition. Just like my mother, I understand the trees and fruits around us need cultivation for humanity to survive.