Changing Seasons

There is no doubt that fall has arrived. The early morning sun at the tree farm has a way of making me feel more alive than, say, reruns of Family Feud at 10 o’clock at night. I am a morning person. Loathed by anyone who would pull the covers over his head in protest of the day. I apologize to your kind.

The air is cool. Sweatshirt weather. Not really cold. The dew is heavy. Steam rises from the wet grass as the sun strains to dry the earth after last night’s rain. The colors of red and yellow reflect off the surface of the pond. The gray dawn turns to blue sky.

I tell you this because I am in a good mood today. Life seems fresh on a day like this. I can’t really explain it. Nothing spectacular has happened. I’m still widowed. But in this moment, for a few minutes, I forget that fact. I lean into the good in this life.

I am one of those who believes that a person can manage his mood rather than be managed by it. Life is hard enough without living in the grip of a sour frame of mind. There are a thousand reasons to choke on the cards dealt to us, but there are a million reasons to face each day with a smile.

The friends around me are one reason.

I can’t begin to tell you how many people keep checking on me since Beth passed away. You know how it goes. At the time of the funeral, you are surrounded by a constant embrace of support. As time goes by, the phone calls slow down. The words of encouragement come less often. Sometimes they stop all together. Yet, though it’s been almost three months now, nearly every day I get a phone call or a text.

“Just calling to see how you’re doing.”

“Thought about you this morning. Call me if you need anything.”

“Praying for you. I miss her, too. She was my friend.”

I know that my loss is profound. My partner of 43 years is gone. Every day is different now. Every decision feels different. Every meal is different. Every bedtime is different. Every room is different. It’s hard to think about making plans for the future. It’s hard to sort through her stuff. It’s hard to know what the rest of my life will become.

A text from a friend: “Life is not a race. Be patient with yourself.”

What I think about as I look out across the farm this morning is that this is a different season of life for me. Summer, fall, winter, spring. The created order. The Wisdom of the universe. I didn’t ask for fall to come, but it comes whether I want it to come or not. And winter will come right behind it.

I did not expect to lose my wife. I didn’t ask for this season. But it came in its own time. The sun got lower in the sky and the nights got longer. A new story began. What I think I know is that there is a greater Wisdom that sees things I cannot see. In my gut, I know there is some Good in my life that is yet to come. There is a spring that will unfold after the cold winter.

I don’t mean to try and sound like a poet here. I failed miserably at my senior American Literature class. Thoreau and Emmerson might as well have written in foreign languages. I had no clue what they were talking about. So, if you check out now, I’ll understand.

Moving on.

The winter season of my soul feels like it could be getting close. Everyone says that Thanksgiving and Christmas will be the two hardest holidays. Two great family traditions without my best friend. An empty chair will cast a shadow of sadness, but I know we will also laugh together because the love that surrounds those experiences is stronger than our loss.

A part of me has gone dormant, like a tree in winter. I have stopped doing some things that I used to do all the time. I don’t teach Sunday School anymore. It’s not that I’ve lost my way. I just don’t think I have it in me to be strong enough.

I tried giving a devotion not too long ago and almost couldn’t get through it. Something I said triggered an unexpected flood of emotion. I get caught up in my words all the time. I was talking to a friend the other day and just had to stop and collect myself. I wasn’t sure why. I mean, I know why but it still caught me off guard. Could be the chill of my winter has come to rest.

Don’t worry about me, though. When a tree goes dormant in winter, it’s not dead. The leaves fall. Its appearance against the cold gray sky changes. A naked tree in winter seems so vulnerable to the wind and rain. But that’s just how it is in winter.

Below ground there is life. In the winter there is less stress on the root system. In fact, the roots grow and thrive in winter. Unseen to the casual observer, the tree is expanding its territory. Finding new resources. Preparing for the coming of spring. When spring comes, and it will come, this tree is ready. All of its stored-up energy will break-out in new leaves and new branches. Spring is not a resurrection of the dead; it is a celebration of the living.

That’s me, I hope. One day.

I’m standing above the irrigation pond. Work almost feels right again. My efforts are more purposeful. My goals are about more than just getting through the day. The tempo of what we do here at the farm is not so out of whack as it was a couple months ago. In September it felt odd to be at work. I had to force myself to be interested in my feeble contributions. Now, in November, I have eased back into a familiar rhythm that allows me to imagine better days.

Today, I choose to look past my own loss. I choose to breathe a prayer for others I know who have lost just as hard and who have lived with hurt far longer than I. If I could say to you who understand this season of life, and if you could receive it with the sincerity and kindheartedness I intend, I would say hold on to your heart. The seasons will change soon enough.

We don’t know when. We don’t even know if it will be summer or another winter. The laws of physics do not apply to the soul. When it comes to love and loss, you might have three winters, then summer, back to winter, fall, two more winters, then spring.

Those of us who live in the south should be used to that.

Look, all I want to say is that this is a beautiful day. The fall color is stunning. The crisp feel to the air is perfect.

I hope you feel as alive as I do.

6 thoughts on “Changing Seasons

  1. Paul, you are absolutely an amazing writer and have a rare talent to be able to express feelings and emotions with words! I have a close friends who was a Dr here in town and goes to church with us who also has this rare talent….also widowed suddenly 3 years ago. I hope your writing is as therapeutic for you as it is to read❣️I pray for you as I I know deep grief …. Not the same as yours, but I know how it is always just under the surface ready to creep out at unexpected times. Praise God we know where our loved ones are! What a comfort🙌 They live and we will live because of the blood of our Lord❣️

    Sent from my iPhone

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  2. Dear Paul,

    As I read your words (shared by dear friends)
    They are everything my heart feels and wants to say. My loving husband passed away just 6 weeks ago after 52 years together. I will reach back to your words often to express my heart in a way that I am not capable if doing
    Thank You for sharing and Bless You in this season and always.
    Diane

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  3. I just read this, reminds me of my brother , today is his birthday, it was the first after loosing his wife will be a year next month they had been married 43 years this past May
    Thank you for sharing, May God blessing be with you not only today but the days that lie before you
    Naomi

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  4. Grief does come upon us at unexpected times. Something we read, hear, smell, see, and even taste can bring on deep emotion when we have experienced loss. You remain in my prayers. Your writing is such a treasure. Shared my copy of your book with mom before I read it. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

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