Like many people, I’ve always loved fall. The crisp air, the cooler temperatures, the smell of leaves, etc. Though I know people, like my friend Violet, who have serious issues with fall. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, it’s the season of death. (At the same time, though, the Jewish celebration of New Year in the fall has always made a great deal of sense to me.)
I seemed to be immune to this phenomenon until the last few years. I believe it started when, Sherry and I each had three deaths in the fall. (Two years ago? Three? I find I can no longer remember.) Mostly family, as I recall, and some more expected than others. I particularly remember how hot it was the day of my aunt’s funeral.
And then there was the former PostRank office. Typically I loved the fact that we were on the fifth floor, and the windows were big and wrapped around the building. I had a wonderful view of uptown Waterloo and various neighbourhoods, the trees as they changed with the seasons, and the landscape under snowfall.
What I also had was a front row seat to death. On Allen Street, behind the office, there are several churches, and directly across the street on King is a funeral home. So every time a member of one of those congregations died, I knew. Every time there was a visitation or funeral at Erb & Good, I was some weird kind of spectator. And more than once I crossed the street in my sensible heels and conservative attire to attend visitations of my own.
Same as it ever was, probably, but it gets to you, watching the rituals of the dead practically every day — sometimes more than once — from mid-fall until well into spring. You can’t help but ponder your own mortality and that of those you love.
One of the things I become ever more cognizant of as I get older is that not everyone dies old. Somehow it seems like we should be advanced enough medically and technologically to ensure longevity by now. And yet, among others, I know of the deaths of two pre-teen children this summer (accidental drowning and suicide — suicide).
The season has started. In the last little while I have learned of two terminal cancer diagnoses and the recent death of an acquaintance’s mother. It’s only September 20th. Beyond that, my Dad turns 70 next week, and Mom turns 65 in early November. Parents as seniors is a hard thing to process. I have found myself physically shaking my head to clear it when I have started doing mental calculations on how long my Dad can hope to live past this milestone.
But we keep breathing, keep moving. Smile at the pictures of my niece’s first day of school. Take part in as many social events as my comfort level can manage. Give and take hugs wherever they’re offered.
But sometimes you will be left alone in your own head, or what’s going on in your own head doesn’t matter, because someone else needs you. (And, in fact, helping and serving others is about the best thing for you sometimes.)
It does get dark earlier now, but not all year.