It is the start of October, the start of three straight months that have been my perpetual favorites for most of my life. As a child, October and December were solid favorites for me while November was a holding pattern as my young, magic-filled heart waited for the spirit of Christmas to arrive. When in college, it became something more as it was the first opportunity I had to go home since starting the school year. Since moving to Virginia, November is a continued autumn where the leaves are still colorful and pumpkins still abound.
But October has always been my favorite of the autumn months and seems fitting to kick off my three-month love affair with the later half of the year. And it’s interesting, really, that I adore this month so much. Interesting that I adore October through December, really.
I have a large family with a multitude of aunts and uncles and cousins. Beside that, my mother’s family is very close. We have second cousins who are like aunts to me. My grandfather’s siblings are all great aunts and uncles who I know by name and they me. With a large family that covers the expanse of ages, you also experience greater loss.
It’s always been interesting to me that so many of my relatives who have passed on from this world have left in the autumn months. Late September through December I have lost count of the number of relatives who have died. Not a week goes by where I’m not thinking of a specific relative I’ve lost.
Just yesterday, it marks a year since my grandmother passed. In two days time, it will be twenty years since my pop-pop died. My other grandfather passed in November, my great-grandfather in December. An Aunt next month, great aunts the following. We’ve lost so many people and I don’t know if it’s the time of the year or the sheer multitude of family members that make it seem like so much, but the fact is that death comes frequently for our family during these three treasured months.
It’s funny, one perhaps may think, that I love these months even still. They remain my favorite no matter how many hits the months bring. And now we enter October again with another death fresh in our minds and I’m left considering why, exactly, I still find joy in these months.
Perhaps its a lesson I’ve given myself unknowingly. I know why I love autumn. The bright colorful trees, the pumpkins, the burst of outdoor activities before it gets cold, the rapid change in weather and season after months of steamy summer. I have so many solid, happy childhood memories and the majority of them are from autumn months. Then November arrives and the air becomes crisp, the chance of snow hangs in the air along with the scent of wood smoke before it issues in the beginning of the Christmas season. I know why I like these months, but why continue to with so much that has happened to my family?
I think in a way it’s a reminder of our short time on earth. Autumn, of course, is painfully symbolic of life ending before the rebirth in spring. I feel in some ways it’s the perfect time to pass on from this world, your soul drifting lazily in the autumn breeze to its final destination. It seems like a softer time to depart. And for us still left here? What are we to do?
I could be sad and mournful every autumn. I could be constantly reminded of the time that has come and gone and those I lost, but I know for certain those family members wouldn’t wish that upon me. Instead I look to the brilliance of the year. Life, the start through the end, is beautiful. Even in the death of the season there’s beauty and can’t the same be said for the death of loved ones? The pain is overwhelming when it occurs but I have found I always learn something incredible from the loss.
Those who I have loved are no longer physically present on the earth, but they are still very much alive and continue to teach me as I propel forward for more circles around the sun. It’s just the same as everything else that autumn brings. The end of a harvest, the determination of how the next year’s crops may fair, the gathering of grains to help us move forward through the cold winter months. There are so many lessons brought upon us that I can’t allow these months to be steeped in sadness.
As someone who is typically anxious over things beyond my control, I find a power in allowing autumn to come and go with joy no matter what is thrown my way. It’s stubborn determination that nothing will get in the way of my pleasure for the month, and in that I feel powerful against my anxiety and against the negatives of the world.
Now to find that strength and power in other elements of life and the year, that’s key.