I’ve always considered myself to be a “spring girl”. I always loved the chirping of the birds, the floral scents and the warmth of the sun returning to our longer days. There is so much hope in spring. Things are coming alive and are so brand new. That sense of anticipation, hope and optimism leaves me feeling like everything wonderful is possible.
But then last week happened. Suddenly I was reminded that very soon I was going to be cold. Of course, I know it’s coming. If pressed, I might even admit that it’s probably time for it. But I seem to be resisting it, wanting it to stay warm and sunny, just a little bit longer. But I know it’s inevitable. It will come whether I am ready or not.
An old friend recently celebrated his 74th birthday. He shared that he has been thinking about his mortality for a long time, realizing that it is unavoidable and out of his control. As he described it, his strategy is to acquiesce rather than allow worry or depression to distract him from the life that is available to him in this moment.
Why else would we have the beauty of crisply colored leaves before they fall from their trees? Cool breezes and fluffy critters welcome us so softly and gently into what must be. What a gift.
Even as we experience it, it is so easy for the beauty of fall to be dismissed. Even surrounded by the activity of nature, how ready we are to hypothesize how awful, how brittle, how cold the coming winter is sure to be. How quickly we forget the joy we had in the passing summer. If we let it, the promise that warmed us so recently can be overshadowed by our worry, dread, grief, or fear of what winter may bring.
Just as in nature, when we enter the fall of our lives, many of us feel the urge to make a difference to others. The leaves do not fall from the trees for their own sake. Their fall nourishes the earth, allowing for continued growth and life. It is not for us to cling to the tree for our dear precious lives. It is a time for us to recognize our purpose and share our gifts with the world so that when winter comes, our contributions add to rather than deplete those around us.
I can’t deny that the thought of the cold makes me shiver, and the threat of the darkness to come is unsettling. But I know that it is in the quiet stillness of the night that growth and healing will occur. As odd as it may sound, it is during those lovely Summer days that life is preparing to die. And it is in Winter when life is preparing to live.
The last stage of our lives invites us to look back without regret. It is a chance to reflect on season’s past and know that we did good; we did our part. Leo Buscaglia describes this beautifully in his book, “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf”. Freddie was scared too. He fought it and held on tightly. But when it was his time to die, “to change his home”, he was surprised to find that in letting go, he fell gently and softly.
Not to ruin the story, but it was from the perspective of falling that Freddie saw the true beauty and strength of his tree. Just as in his life, through his death, he will continue to nourish the tree, and spring will come again.