“For each age is a dream that is dying, or one that is coming to birth.”
Of all the seasons we are so fortunate to observe, autumn has always been and still is my favorite. As the waning days of summer close, autumn marks a change of pace as I acquiesce to the sometimes graceful and sometimes sudden passage of time. Brilliant displays of color paint the landscape and sky, disguising the encroaching darkness that will soon redefine my way and way of being. As in life…Especially the last several years that brought so much change to my perspective on life. Where there was more dying than living. A life that was (and is) both full and fleeting, beautiful and painful.
There is a quiet, if not hidden, beauty in the dying that takes place – in this season and in life. Author, Parker Palmer, eloquently describes the grace of this truth: “The hopeful notion that new life is hidden in dying is surely reinforced by the visual glories of autumn. (Indeed,) what artist would paint a deathbed scene with the vibrant and vital palette nature uses?”
We often associate the radiance of springtime with the beginning of life. We celebrate the emergence of tender shoots and sprigs of green from the cold, barren, snow-covered earth; beginning a cycle that winds slowly down to the rustle of dying leaves that have fallen back to earth. But something first had to die – come to an end – so that a newer life, fed and strengthened by whatever has been lost, could come alive in its place. It is in the radiant dying of autumn and the barren sleep of winter, that the seeds for the new life born in spring and lived in summer, are first imagined.
Resurrection can only come through death. Fr. Richard Rohr describes this passageway to new life: “Jesus willingly died—and Christ arose—yes, still Jesus, but now including and revealing everything else in its full purpose and glory.” It is in the dyings of life when our full humanity comes to life.
Life is born through death. We experience these dyings more often than we – at least on the surface – realize. Ideas, plans, and philosophies die back to engender new ones. When we graduate high school and college that season of life dies as we enter the next stage of life in adulthood. When relationships begin and end, when we marry, when we have children, when we leave a job or a neighborhood, when we begin a new endeavor or pursue a different direction, a part of us dies. Must die. Must end. You can choose to view the dyings and painful endings in life as passages to anger, blame, hatred, depression, and resentment, or you can choose to let them be passages to something new, something wider, something deeper. With each of these dyings, we are given the opportunity for new life; they allow us to let go and lead us to discover new directions, new purposes. With every ending, we are given a passageway to something more – seeds for new life
But new life has to be claimed and nurtured. Without water – the spring green grass withers and goes to weed, the budding trees fail to thrive. Without encouragement and tending – gardens won’t yield a crop. Without nurture, calves and fawns, ducklings and goslings die.
After a far too lengthy season of winter, I am reclaiming spring for my life. A new hip does wonders! Free of chronic pain that at times made me wish for death and clouded every aspect of my spirit – I am once again anticipating opportunities for growth and waking up each day with hope. But freedom from pain also means I must let go of my painful way of being. When pain was my constant companion anyway, I let the painful parts of life – deaths, breakups, failures, uncertainty – make a home in me where anger, blame, depression, and resentment flourished.
With renewed strength and hope – I’ve been clearing my inner landscape of the wintry darkness that claimed so much of me. It is hard work – humbling work. But as I breathe in the dewy fragrance of the spring morning and let the sun shine in, the more I realize that life is not diminished by darkness or death. It is made more organic, more wholehearted, more resilient and resplendent.
If you think about it, everything alive in the world and in us is made up of things that have passed before us, gone about the business of dying and living. That’s much more hopeful than the idea that life, the moment it appears, begins winding its way inescapably toward death.
The endless interplay of darkness and light, the dying and rising, the endings and beginnings, the autumns and springs of life remind me that everything is forever being made new. And new life is a wonderful season to embrace.
Oh God of Life and Creation, You give life and breath to all things. As Spring takes hold in our spirits, as the snow melts, bulbs bloom, trees blossom, and the rivers run high and fast – it’s as if we have come alive once again to sing praises to you. During this season of transition, we recognize that some things must pass away, step aside, move on, let go – to make way for new life. As the school year comes to an end, as chapters close in our lives, as we grow older each day, as we learn to let go – guide us through these times of transition with Your sustaining love and Spirit of peace. Amen
Let your light so shine!