Jennifer Modenessi reports for the Contra Costa Times that on Nov. 13, 2012, while removing a fallen California pine at the Catholic Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Lafayette, CA, tree trimmers stopped cutting when they found an image of the cross in a section of the tree.
No other portions of the tree contained similar markings.
Emily Chandler, who owns the tree service that goes back several generations, said that her workers have found interesting images within felled timbers, including a perfectly shaped heart in a dead birch tree some years ago. But they had never found a cross until now.
“We’ve never seen anything like it before,” said Queen of Heaven worker Anna Engelhard.
For Juan Ochoa, 45, the cemetery’s groundskeeper, the discovery is especially significant. He had planted the tree 12 years ago at the foot of a gentle hill overlooking some of the cemetery’s sprawling nearly-200 acres. The tree was a potted Christmas tree left at a grave. When families leave behind these little Christmas trees after the holidays, workers plant them.
Ochoa’s brother had died in a car accident a few weeks ago before the cross-in-a-tree was discovered. “Since my brother passed away, I’ve been looking for signs, waiting for him to come to me in my dreams, tell me goodbye,” said Ochoa. The discovery is helping ease his pain.
Lewis Feldman, a professor of plant biology at the University of California-Berkeley, said it’s possible the cross is aromatic scar tissue known as “heartwood,” which trees transport into their centers, where the tissue is dead. He theorized the tree could have had its main tip damaged and the connections belonging to remaining branches that eventually fell off were preserved, with the brown tannins and resins moving to the center of the tree.
“It’s very interesting that it was put in a cross shape,” Feldman said. “Something was going on (with the tree) at that time.”
Brother Charles Hilken, a professor of medieval studies at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, Calif., said reported appearances of sacred symbols and apparitions are not surprising. He said that until more is revealed about the matter, the private experience of believers should be respected.
Scientific phenomenon or not, cemetery employees are happy with the find. “It’s on holy ground where a lot of people are buried,” said Joanna DiSibio, a family service counselor at Queen of Heaven. “We believe there’s a meaning to it.”
Cemetery administrators are displaying the 4-inch-thick tree slice in their office.
See also “In a world gone mad, grace in the trunk of a tree,” Nov. 6, 2013.
Dr. Eowyn is the Editor of Fellowship of the Minds.