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  • Karen Brilliant Andrews

54 Year Marriage Ended, and Restarts Beneath a Big Red Tree

Updated: Jul 6, 2020


If you come along with me, we’re gonna look for a Big Red Tree. It’s just up around the bend.* My mom and dad found it years ago. They first heard about it in April 1970 when the song "Up Around the Bend" was released. Years later they decided to meet there in Heaven. My mother is there now, patiently waiting for my dad, helping God prepare his place beneath a Big Red Tree.


I want you to know the meaning of the Red Tree, and how John Fogerty and his lyrics impacted my family, created a place in Heaven for my parents to unite in Heaven after 54 glorious years of marriage. It will be a place where we will all be united, when our journey on Earth has ended where there will be family picnics, dancing, and togetherness...I will know where to find my parents in the wide expanse of Eternal Heaven. Maybe one day in the future, they will catch a glimpse of John Fogerty cruising by on a Harley Davidson with the engine wide open a "crystal day". After all, it was Mr. Fogerty himself who created this place in Heaven.


The song released over 50 years ago, by a band called Credence Clearwater Revival - April 1970 . (If you skip to the end of the page, I have a link to the song so you can hear it yourself. Better yet, buy the album. My dad has had great taste in music for over 70 years now - he won't steer you wrong!)



My dad wasn’t considered a “fortunate son” by any means. He had the bad boy image that Los Angeles County offered in the mid 50’s through the early 60’s. He relocated to small-town Texas, where married a small-town Texas Catholic School Girl. He always believed he married up and out of his league.

They were married in 1965, April 16th, Good Friday, which fell on April 16th that particular year. As you know, Good Friday is the Friday just before Easter. The day in which Easter is celebrated is based on the moon cycle as opposed to a set Calendar Date, so Good Friday and Easter sort of float around and are different every year. However, my parents never lost that “newly wed bliss”, and celebrated their Wedding Anniversary twice a year – on Good Friday and April 16th. They did this for 54 years.

When someone would ask the secret to keep the bliss in a marriage for 54 years. Dad would tell them, “I don’t know the secret. I just know that when I woke up in morning next to her, I was happy to be married to her. And when I went to bed that night, I looked at her sleeping, I was still glad I was married to her."


My mother died suddenly, very unexpectedly October 24, 2019. Before my mother passed, she stated her wish was to be buried in the same cemetery plot with my dad. My sister, and my dad and I made the funeral arrangements. Dad special ordered the small, and shared headstone for both of them. Every decision at the time seemed “knee-jerk” since we hadn’t prepared for this moment and were still reeling from the shock. I stood by him at the funeral, as we walked in chapel and my mother’s casket came into view, I felt his knees buckle. I was there on one side to hold him up so he could go forward, my sister was on the other. It was all so surreal.

We reflected on memories. One memory my dad shared with me and my sister was a private conversation between him and my mother. Mom had a doctor’s appointment, and Dad arrived to their destination and parked the car. Dad’s favorite song was playing, so he asked Mom is she minded if he finished listening to the song, “Up Around the Bend”. She listened to the lyrics while my dad “bee-bopped” the steering wheel playing the drum part.

All of a sudden, my mom says, “That is where we will meet”.

My dad, in his most articulate manner, said, “Huh?”

She softly smiled and softly leaned towards him, placed her hand on his arm, and softly spoke towards his ear, and said, “When one of us dies before the other, that is where we will meet in Heaven. I will know to find you by the Big Red Tree”. My dad didn’t know that after 44 years of marriage, she could still say something that could make his heart skip a beat. From that moment on, “Up Around the Bend” became their song.

The lyrics for the song go:

Come on the risin’ wind

We’re goin’ up around the bend

Yeah

Ooh

Catch a ride to the end of the highway

And we’ll meet by the Big Red Tree

There’s a place up ahead and I’m goin’

Come along, come along with me *

Dad writes short stories and poems, and even helped his grandson, Jordon, with song lyrics from time to time. He wrote Mom a poem about all the things they would see and do once united under that Big Red Tree in Heaven. The Big Red Tree became a such a happy place for them, and they referred to it daily. Matter of fact, the poem still hangs in the kitchen.


Under the tree there will be picnics, they will watch their 2 (young again) daughters dance in the sunshine while playing Princess. They will hold hands, and they would sit in silence just being together in each other’s arms. The song assured them they will always be together - throughout Eternity.As an aging couple now in their 70’s now, eternity was closer than it used to be.


Dad, over the years, has several copies of Credence Clearwater Revival, and almost all of John Fogerty’s solo career song-line up. He has the original albums, mix-cassette tapes he recorded, CDs, and now has it all on his iPod. He and Fogerty are about the same age, so every medium the songs were released on…I bet Dad has. He constantly streams music in his car. He still has a love for great Rock & Roll, and Classic Rock even in a "Katie Perry-and-Kanye West" world. Every time the song came up, they would reach for each other’s hand.


Dad designed and ordered the headstone, he designed it with Big Red Tree on it, with a ribbon that says Together Forever. Being buried in the same plot, they will be buried beneath that Red Tree…Together Forever.

Six months after Mom's passing, what would be considered their 55th Wedding Anniversary arrives. Dad got Mom flowers like he always did for 54 years. The only difference is this time he was walking through the cemetery instead of the front door to deliver them.

He arrived to the cemetery, and and did the lonely walk towards her grave. He could hardly believe his eyes. He felt as if he just lost his breath. When the headstone came into sight, he had gasp for breath. Apparently, headstone had been installed the day before.

Prominently displayed was the Big Red Tree, a BRIGHT Big Red Tree. It was a message from my mother to him, arranged by God himself on their 55th Wedding Anniversary. They WILL be together again, and Mom wanted my Dad to remember that...especially on their 55th Anniversary.


As I said earlier, my dad writes short stories, poems, and prose – even a song lyric from time-to-time with his grandson. He understands that a song is emotion... put to words... with sound.


He said writers want to be remembered, they want to touch someone’s heart. He told me if he ever wrote something that touched someone’s heart, and caused ripples in eternity and created an eternal place in Heaven for two people…he would want to know. He would want to know his words had that kind of impact on someone. He said it is a writer’s dream.

Mom and Dad had gone to see John Fogerty twice in concert always hoping to see him signing autographs so they could visit with him. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be, and Mom passed away before she could tell him how much the song meant to her.

Whether it's a sunny day, a windy day, or a rainy day, EVERY red tree I see from now on I will know my parents will there on the back side of it. And when the times comes, I will know where to find my parents and I get to play princess in the sunshine again with my sister.


Here I go, I’m sticking it out there. Hopefully the rising' wind will carry the below message...


Mr. Fogerty, when you get to Heaven, and have that Harley wide open on the Heavenly Highway on a Crystal Day...that beautiful young couple you pass by that are under that "Big Red Tree" that is Up "Around the Bend"? Well, they are my parents.


Thank-you from the bottom of my heart, my dad's heart, and my whole family's heart. Thank-you for your songs, thank-you for the messages. And thank-you for providing them a place to meet again in Heaven. And like you wrote in the song, please know, that "there WAS an ear for what you had to say"!*




*

(The lyrics are from "Up Around the Bend", by Credence Clearwater Revival, written by John Fogerty. Released April 1970. I naturally do now own the rights to the posted video. I do, however, own the other photos!)


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