November is my favorite month, even though it is a very sad month for me as well. Change came sweeping into my life October 2003 when my father was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. It was sudden; it was swift. November was a huge month, with her arms stretched out wide, encircling my entire life as I knew it. It was a month of change, of acceptance, of denial, of love, of hope, of life. Then December came and November was gone, into the dark of the night of winter, leaving all traces of autumn.
November in North Carolina is a colorful month full of dark browns, cool red hues, and a collage of warm buttery colors. I do love November in North Carolina. Perhaps it is because November in North Carolina is so very far away from the 2003 November of Wyoming, when my heart stood still — stood thick, like molasses stuck in quicksand — sticky and sinking.
Change happens. It is just inevitable. Nature tempts us each year with metaphor and grace; her cycles a lesson. I no longer just see color, I smell it. It contains a small pea of memory. This pea multiplies and muses me; November is a symphony of this music. I breathe a little easier once past December 10 or is it 11? Not so sure anymore, as the years have passed — almost a decade, minus one equals nine. My father passed in the middle of the night. My mother held his hand as he died. My sister begged to know the next day if the angels came. My mother said, “No. His pulse quickened and he was gone.” My mother is a stoic one. She is matter of fact and to the point. Something I love and also something I get annoyed with at the same time. She is a New Yorker, born and bred, with an adolescent Illinois backdrop.
Honest speak — we didn’t think my dad would die before my mom. In fact, my mom had brain tumors diagnosed and brain surgery three years before the October tree began to lose its leaves. I had been planning on my mom dying before my dad, in quite dramatic expectation.
Anyway, here I wanted to just post some lovely fall photos and I get all deep and depressing. I don’t care. In fact, I admit I love to soak in the deep water of death, for I have rinsed my hands and wiped my own tears in it. There is a beauty to death. Something I am not afraid of, and at times I am almost callous about. I have had several close friends lose their parents recently. They are a mess (understandably). I feel like a veteran, no longer a rookie on the pain of death.
“All that you touch
All that you Change
The only lasting truth
― Octavia E. Butler
For even in death, there is renewal. When the tree loses its last leaf — a relief, for now it can rest. Growth will come, spring will awaken in spirit.
I often would pass messages to my father after his death through the birds. If a cardinal would appear, it always meant same day delivery, for cardinals were always my fathers favorite bird. Well actually, I thought the cardinal was my dad. So I guess that would make it express delivery.
“Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you. For those who are near you are far away… and this shows that the space around you is beginning to grow vast…. be happy about your growth, in which of course you can’t take anyone with you, and be gentle with those who stay behind; be confident and calm in front of them and don’t torment them with your doubts and don’t frighten them with your faith or joy, which they wouldn’t be able to comprehend. Seek out some simple and true feeling of what you have in common with them, which doesn’t necessarily have to alter when you yourself change again and again; when you see them, love life in a form that is not your own and be indulgent toward those who are growing old, who are afraid of the aloneness that you trust…. and don’t expect any understanding; but believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
“When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Devil and Miss Prym
“The snake which cannot cast its skin has to die. As well the minds which are prevented from changing their opinions; they cease to be mind.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche
“Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.”
― Eckhart Tolle
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” ― Mother Teresa
The photo of the leaf above is my favorite photo. I have so many photos I have taken, but sometimes I just hit it out of the park with the bases loaded at the bottom of the ninth. (My dad loved baseball — he would appreciate my hyperbole metaphor and I think he would love this photo too).
It is the darkness that makes the light shine brightest.