It’s that time of year again. The leaves are crunching under my feet, the mums are blooming, and the skeletons are coming out.
I can feel the edges of grief tugging at me. Memories of desperate prayers, resignation, loss, and failure are creeping in with the ghosts being hung in store windows.
This excerpt from Our Broken Hallelujahs recounts a portion of what I must release to God anew each year:
“I purchased a new diaper bag and some onesies in an act of faith. The test said positive, and I refused to live in fear that this would be another lost child. For further peace of mind, I scheduled an ultrasound at nine weeks. When the banter stopped during the exam, I knew I’d lost another baby. The results weren’t clear, so I was told to come back in a week to check again.
For a full week I fluctuated between hope and despair. My husband and I struggled to understand each other’s emotions during the waiting, so we floated alone next to each other in a sea of uncertainty. I had resigned myself to the loss before it was confirmed, and the disconnect between us grew.
When the confirmation of the loss came, we were separated from another baby, separated from the hope of life, and separated from each other. Without a fight, Jon honored my request to go through the dilation and curettage procedure alone. My womb was clinically cleaned and emptied, and I felt the barrenness of my entire being.”
In 2011, this mid October miscarriage culminated an almost 15 year season of losing people I loved and began a 6 month season of damaging decisions.
The loss and my failures haunt me every year. I am visited by flickers of shame and sorrow as I watch the leaves drift gently to the earth.
I recently saw a meme that said, “The trees are about to show us how beautiful it is to let go,” and it resonated with me. There is something precious in releasing my grief and regret each year. My reflections on letting go led me to read “Why Leaves Fall From Trees in Autumn” by Roger Di Silvestro, and a few passages felt particularly apt.
Di Silvestro says, “Eventually, autumn leaves must fall. By the end of summer, they may be damaged by insects, disease or general wear and tear and ready for renewal. They are equipped to self-destruct.”
With a few small tweaks, the quote becomes somewhat profound. “By the end of a season, we may be damaged by disease, loss, failure, or the general wear and tear of life and lingering memories and ready for renewal. Our emotions are equipped to self-destruct.” We are programmed to experience nature’s cycle and to release anew the little leaves and burdens that have grown back.
The wisdom of the tree’s release is further revealed as Di Silvestro explains, “As they decompose, their nutrients trickle into the soil and feed future generations of plant and animal life. Quite likely, fallen leaves are a key factor in the survival not only of trees, but of forests as a whole.”
The leaves must fall in order to serve their full purpose. I never go a year without the losses or mistakes I have made serving as the means through which I can support others. If I cling to the pain and shame, they will sap my energy and prevent me from aiding others. I must release them in order to serve the forest… no, excuse me, to serve my community.
Finally, it is the letting go that strengthens us for the next season. Di Silvestro embraces the poetic element of nature’s letting go when he writes, “With their leaves gone, the trees are ready to take on winter’s slings and arrows. Naturalist Henry David Thoreau imagined it this way in his journal entry for October 29, 1858: ‘Nature now, like an athlete, begins to strip herself in earnest for her contest with her great antagonist Winter. In the bare trees and twigs what a display of muscle.’”
Releasing the leaves strengthens the tree’s ability to withstand hardship. If we, too, let the damaged and life draining pieces go, we will be more capable of survival and fortitude in the winter seasons.
As the ghostly memories return, I am once again tenderly letting the breeze take them away to carpet the forest floor. Like the trees, my letting go is leaving room for renewal, aiding in the growth and survival of those close to me, and preparing me for seasons still to come.