The Great Oak

By Annette Demeny

Who would’ve ever thought that a poem written by my youngest son, Sam, about his older brother, Zachary, would have such deep meaning some fifteen years later?


When it comes to keeping greeting cards, letters, pictures, school work, awards, trophies…you name it, I keep it. Especially, when it comes to my children’s keepsakes. So, with three grown children of my own plus bonus children and a grandchild, you can only imagine the mounds of boxes that has accumulated over a span of 30+ years! Keep this in mind as I tell you this story of God’s plan for one incredible young man and a growing tree.


My oldest son, Zachary, NEVER and when I say never I mean NEVER got in trouble at school and was always the sweetest, smartest, most handsome young boy from the moment he entered into this world. He has a kindness that everyone is drawn to so when his behavior began to shift towards the middle of his senior year of high school, you couldn’t help but take notice. It all started when I was called to his school where Zach was being accused of vandalizing another student’s car. Honestly, I thought they had the wrong kid. The wrong information. Not Zach. Well, it was him and from that day, nothing really was ever the same. He was an excellent student, a leader on his high school (state champion) golf team, and after high school, was accepted to NC State to pursue his dream of becoming a PGA golf pro or even get his own PGA card to play professionally. There, at college, is when it became apparent that my son was deep into drug use. His grades began to plummet and the kind, grounded Zach was now angry and depressed. For nearly eight years, he battled and battled hard. Our family was on the front line of that battle…daily. For anyone that’s ever struggled with drugs or alcohol or have had a child or family member deal with drug abuse, there’s no words to truly capture the pain, sadness, loss, and heartache that journey puts you on.


I’ve often thought about writing down the details of those long eight years in hopes to help other mothers navigate the ups and downs of this deadly disease, but I struggle to do that. I suppose it’s because my faith in God overshadows the past. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17.

That’s how I feel when it comes to my son Zachary. “His story is his sword”, as my brother Mike would often remind me.  You see, my son HAD to go through this journey and the low valleys for God to equip him for HIS purpose.


Fast forward. My sweet, kind, compassionate, and cleansed son is celebrating his 2-year sobriety birthday TODAY! The reason I wanted to share this story is to possibly reach someone out there who may be in a similar situation and let them know that there’s HOPE. God never stops working. This is where my youngest son’s poem from 15 years ago comes into play…


While preparing for our family celebration to honor Zach’s 29th birthday (April 14th) and his 2-year sobriety birthday (April 15th), I prayed about what special gift we could give him to show just how incredibly proud we are of his strength and faithfulness. God answered with…”plant a tree”. Hummmm. I never thought much about why God wanted me to plant a tree but I figured it’s because my love of nature and especially rocks and tree bark.

While I was out shopping for something unrelated to this story, I was drawn to the back of this particular store where the outdoor decor was being sold. As I turned the corner, there was ONE, and only ONE stone plaque perched on a shelf. It read, “For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11. Standing there, I began to cry and said over and over “Thank you Jesus”. This would be the stone that will lay underneath that tree God wants me to plant.


When I left this store, I decided to stop in Hallmark to shop for the perfect card. Unfortunately, there’s few, if any, “sobriety anniversary” cards to be found so I decided that to be creative and make my own card when I arrived back home. Leaving the store, I caught a glimpse of a card that read, “The Oak Tree”. I picked it up.

A mighty wind blew night and day.

It stole the oak tree’s leaves away.

Then snapped its boughs and pulled its bark

Until the oak was tired and start.

But still the oak tree held its ground

While the other trees fell all around.

The weary wind gave up and spoke,

“How can you still be standing, Oak?”

The oak tree said, “I know that you

Can break each branch of mine in two,

Carry every leaf away,

Shake my limbs, and make me sway.

But I have roots stretched in the earth,

Growing stronger since my birth.

You’ll never touch them, for you see,

They are the deepest part of me.

Until today, I wasn’t sure

Of just how much I could endure.

But now I’ve found, with thanks to you,

I’m stronger than I ever knew.” ~ Hallmark


It was perfect. As I was driving home, something kept lingering in my thoughts, “The Oak Tree”? Where have I heard that before? Then, I remembered! Zach’s brother wrote a poem years ago about an oak tree. How in the world did I remember that? Being that I can barely remember what I had for breakfast this morning! It became very apparent that God was speaking and guiding me to what was needed. I HAD to find that poem! But how? As I stated at the beginning of this post, there’s tons of boxes littered in our sardine-size attic. Some labeled. Some not. Ohhhhh my!


Pulling into the garage, I caught myself thinking, “Really? Do you really want to try and find this hidden poem? And if so, why is it so important?”

Well, it was important because God was nudging me to get uncomfortable in that hot attic, so I did. If I told you that the third box I opened had a folder laying on top that read, “Poems About Me! By: Sam Lawing”, would you believe me?! I literally stood there in that hot attic with my mouth wide open praying that this could be it. Remember, I hadn’t laid eyes on this poem in 15 years and truly didn’t have any reason to remember it. I opened up the old school project folder and there it was…”The Big Oak“.


The oak is king of trees,

With leaves blowing in the breeze,

Standing so straight and tall

Always looking down at all

So big and strong, its branches so lean and long.

Standing next to the oak is a small tree.

This tree is just like me.

The big oak is just like my brother,

and there will never be another! ~ Sam Lawing, age 11


Some of you may be scratching your head wondering…what’s the moral of this story? You see, when God is so deeply rooted in your heart, you see and feel things that you may have otherwise passed off as “coincidence”. I clearly felt and heard God speak to me through simply planting a tree, the discovery of a single plaque with Jeremiah 29:11, the perfect card, and of course…the beautiful poem written by my son to his brother some 15 years ago. That’s God’s work. He never stops working on your behalf but you must be aware and open to recognize those incredible miracles. Today, I invite you to open your heart. Receive and recognize the smallest of things around you. It could be God guiding you to possibly plant an “Oak Tree”.





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