The Tree of Life—Quotes

Compiled by Stacey Tuttle

The nuns taught us there are two ways through life:  the way of nature and the way of grace.  You have to choose which one you’ll follow.

Grace doesn’t try to please itself, accepts being slighted, forgotten, disliked, accepts insults and injuries.

Nature only wants to please itself, get others to please it too.  It likes to lord it over them, to have its own way.  It finds reasons to be unhappy when all the world is shining around it, when love is smiling through all things.

They taught us that no one who loves the way of grace ever comes to a bad end. 

I will be true to you, whatever comes.

-Mrs. O’Brien


A friend, on the death of Mrs. O’Brien’s son:  “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, and that’s the way He is.  …You’ve still got the other two [sons].”

“He [God] sends flies to wounds that He should heal.”

Musings to/about God:  “How did you come to me? In what shape?  What disguise?”

Musings to/about God:  “How did I lose you?  Wandered?  Forgot you?”

Musings to/about God:  “Lord?  Why?  Where were you?  Did you know?  Who are we to you?  Answer me.”

Musings to/about God:  “We cry to you.  My soul.  My son.  Hear us.”

Musings to/about God:  “Light of my life.  I search for you.  My hope.  My child.”

Jack’s thoughts to God:  “You spoke to me through her.  You spoke with me from the sky, the trees, before I knew I loved you, believed in you.  When did you first touch my heart?  Where do you life?  Are you watching me?  I wanna know what you are.  I wanna see what you see.”

Mr. O’Brien to Jack:  “The world lives by trickery.”

Jack’s thoughts to God: “Where were you?  You let a boy die.  You’ll let anything happen.  Why should I be good if you aren’t?”

Mr. O’Brien’s advice to his son, Jack: “You make yourself what you are.  You have control of your own destiny.  You can’t say, ‘I can’t’—you say, ‘I’m having trouble.  I’m not done yet.’  You can’t say ‘I can’t’.”

Mrs. O’Brien’s advice to her sons: “Help each other.  Love everyone—every leaf, every ray of light.  Forgive.”

Jack’s friend:  “How can you know stuff ‘till you look? … They say you can’t try stuff?  They do.  What do you need to be afraid of?”

Jack’s thoughts after his first real act of rebellion:  “What have I started?  What have I done? …  How do I get back?”

Jack: “What I want to do, I can’t do.  I do what I hate.”

Jack’s musings to God as he thought about the time his brother forgave him: “What was it You showed me?  I didn’t know how to name You then, but I see it was You.  Always you were calling me.”

Mr. O’Brien to Jack: “I wanted to be loved because I was great—a big man.  I’m nothing.  Look at the glory around us.  Trees.  Birds.  I lived in shame.  I dishonored it all and didn’t notice the glory.  I’m a foolish man.”

Jack:  “Father, Mother, always you wrestle inside me.  Always you will.”  (Note that his dad represents the way of nature and his mother the way of grace.)

Conversation between Mr. O’Brien and Jack:

                You know Jack, all I ever wanted for you was to make you strong and grow up and be your own boss.  Maybe I’ve been tough on you.  I’m not proud of that.

                I’m as bad as you are.  I’m more like you than her [mom].

                You boys are about all I’ve done in life.  Otherwise, I’ve drawn a zilch.  You’re all I have.  You’re all I want to have.

Mrs. O’Brien:  “The only way to be happy is to love.  Unless you love, your life will flash by.”

Mrs. O’Brien musing to God:  “Keep us.  Guide us.  Till the end of time.   …  I give him to you.  I give you my son.”