On Autumn (the dying of the year)

leaves

There is beauty everywhere, in unexpected places, yes even in the spaces where it seems least likely of all.

All around me, the leaves are falling. This is a season of dying, of beautiful dying: the colors burn from every tree, they fly like sparks through brisk air scented with woodsmoke. It is beautiful, all this color, breathtaking. And what is autumn, if not the dying of the year? There, where only a month ago bees bumped against the blossoms on this tree, the branches now show patches of bare black against a brooding sky. And the oak tree, whose green shaded the whole yard, burns with the last orange-red of Fall. A breeze stirs, and the leaves, with their beautiful colors, spin slowly downward.

We go so far out of our way, these days, to avoid death. We don’t want to talk about it, think about, and we certainly don’t want to see it. I admit: I fear it, not what happens afterwards but the process, not the eternal but the loss, the change.

But I’ve seen the beauty, too. My friend, she watched her mother die last month. I sat with them on many nights and I saw the most beautiful picture of redemption in those last days. I saw that death is part of life, I saw the way that my friend’s ability to walk with her mother through that hard path was a gift to them both, and I saw that when we let go of everything we take hold of God’s hand. It’s always waiting, there.

“I’ll never doubt that there is a heaven, now,” she told me one on one of those long nights. “I’ve seen the look on her face, how she reaches out and calls.”  If she’d have given up this hard path, left death at the hospital and not taken it home with her, not embraced it as part of life, she would have missed out on something as beautiful as it is painful.

I do not understand, no I don’t…when death takes those who had so much more life to live, when suffering cripples families and little children are struck down and families lose loved ones too soon. I’ve seen people go through one loss after another in a short time and I don’t know how we can live with it, the prospect of death looming over us every day. Short of Jesus, I don’t know how we can. But then I see the leaves, how the light filters through all that red-gold fire and how a single leaf, caught by the wind, is borne up and over the trees. How it rides on the invisible breath of breeze, higher and higher until I can see it no more.

And I know:  I don’t have to know. I only have to let go, trust, embrace the beauty even in the brokenness. The leaves will change and they will fall, the winter will come and then, too…the Spring. To let go and take His hand means to be reborn. To trust Him when everything around you screams out “why” and when nothing seems good or right or beautiful, is to know that the last breath you take is actually your very first.

Lord, when I don’t understand, when I can’t see the beauty, lift me up in a breath of grace and give me a tiny glimpse of You.

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