Bearing the signs of change…
Relief is coming. I see the signs most vividly on my dogwood tree. While the temperatures in East Tennessee are still hot and the humidity is still high, my dogwood tells me that fall is on its way and soon there will be respite from summer’s moist, heavy air.
The past 2 summers have held an additional heaviness for me as well, the weight of grief bearing down as oppressively as the soaring temperatures and wilting humidity. Stepping physically into the heat feels much like stepping onto the path of mourning, as though somehow my energy is being drained from me, body and soul. I know this path well. It seems like I’ve been walking it for most of my life. Still, its familiarity does not make it any easier to navigate, nor any shorter.
But relief is coming. The changing colors on my dogwood tree are just the earliest harbingers of changes yet to begin. Soon the maples, oaks and other trees will begin their turning from summer’s greens to the parade of warmer shades brought on by the cooler temperatures. Such a graceful paradox, cooler bringing warmer and vice versa.
Relief is also coming for my grief. There will never be a total removal of pain from the deaths of those I love, nor should there be. But gradually, over time and with the changing seasons, the pain becomes less sharp, always lingering but not as suffocating as before.
Relief is coming.
Why this is a hard time of the year…
I awoke to gentle rain this morning and would have loved to stay in bed, cocooned in sleepy warmth. But there is work to be done and a living to be made, so I reluctantly dragged myself from my cozy bed and got my day started with the regular routine of vitamins, bath, makeup/hair and getting dressed and out the door. Our Boy Roy is a morning dog, so as usual he got up when I did and kept me company as I went about my morning.
The rain intensified as I drove to work and as the rain fell, so, it seemed, did the remaining leaves on the trees. It’s always a little sad when the last of the leaves drift to the ground, especially when a rain seems to beat them down prematurely. But it is November, and the leaves can’t hold on forever. The rhythm of the seasons is unstoppable, and as fall deepens and winter approaches, the last of the leaves must inevitably let go.
This time of year brings memories of Mama in the hospital and a different letting-go process, as she began to release her earthly life and turn toward her Heavenly one. From her hospital window we could see the shifting seasons as the vibrant autumn leaves fell softly from the trees outside, whipped by wind sometimes, or battered by rain. Inside her room the only color seemed to be pale…pale walls, pale sheets, Mama’s pale face. Her whole life she had been so vibrant, until sickness drained all the color out of her.
So it is with the death of the leaves in the fall, and with Mama’s dying process that I always seem to re-live at this time of year. I like to imagine that Heaven is filled with all the beauty of all the seasons, all at once. We can witness the majesty of snow without being cold, the rich reds and golds of fall, and spring and summer’s lavenders, pinks and greens will be more saturated than we can begin to imagine here, with no harsh winds or battering rains. Our loved ones’ faces will be rosy and glowing with perfect health and wholeness, and the Sun of Righteousness will shine His radiant light throughout Heaven’s kingdom.
…there is a season
I am beginning to feel the welcome approach of fall. For the past few weeks I have been detecting little glimpses of seasonal change in the world around me and, after a wet, muggy summer, I am more than ready to greet autumn with open arms. My dogwood tree is always the first harbinger of the coming shift, with its shiny berries looking like the red-hot cinnamon candies that Aunt Mary used to enjoy putting into her hot tea. After the berries burst forth, the leaves begin their gradual change from brilliant green to the warm rusty orange and golden brown I so enjoy seeing. Each day the sun’s touch on the leaves paints on more color.
As lovely as the changing dogwoods are, my favorite trees to watch this time of year are the maples. Several different varieties of maple grow around here, and they turn the most spectacular colors, from lemon yellow and tangerine orange to vibrant reds and rich shades of burgundy. I remember one year when we were living in Florida, my sweet husband and I came back to the Knoxville area in October for a visit, and the leaves were so vivid that everyplace looked like a postcard. It was the most wonderful welcome home I could have asked for, and a more lovely fall than I had seen in many years.
Of course, the beauty of nature was only part of the sweetness of that visit home. Jeff and I took a picnic in the mountains with Mom and Pop Cutshaw, stopping by a little stream to have our lunch. At one point I noticed that Pop was wandering off by himself and I started off after him, until Jeff told me that he was probably looking for a place to pee! Such a funny memory now. We did a little shopping that day and I bought a handmade basket to take back to our little home in Florida to decorate our apartment, reminding me of home and that wonderful visit. I still have it more than 25 years later. We took lots of pictures that trip and the colors were incredible that year.
This time of year holds lots of happy memories for me. There are the reflections of falls gone by when I was a college student, walking the rolling hills of the campus, feeling the first hints of autumn’s chill on my way to class, breaking out my favorite sweaters and hanging pictures on our dorm room wall. There have been Homecomings where I have been united once more with friends and professors from my school days. I love the change in the air and on the trees this time of year. And I love the gentle rhythm of the seasons, the reminder that God indeed has the whole world in His hands, and as long as there are summer and winter, seed time and harvest, His hands are where the world will stay.