As the summer season and its suffocating heat fade, my soul seems to come alive. Fall has always been my favorite time of year. What’s not to love? The mountains burst forth with color; reds, oranges, and yellows mixed with the evergreens. Leaves begin to fall, and there is something quite exhilarating about the sound of crunching leaves underfoot. The temperatures begin to drop; resulting in glorious crisp air in the mornings and evenings. The morning mist lingers near the ground before disappearing with the sun’s warmth. Deer venture out, sticking close to the edge of the forest. In the country, the scents from wood-burning stoves and fireplaces hang in the air. In late fall, camouflage becomes the fashionable clothing of choice with orange hats and vests as hunting season begins.
After one last curtain call of color, the leaves shrivel up and turn that ugly brown. Leaves on the ground are soggy, providing a covering for the soil underneath. Tree branches are bare and exposed, but the trees are not dead. They are simply conserving nutrients, resting until spring when they will once again show new life. Crops are gathered and harvested. Animals grow heavier coats. All of these events signal the end of one season and the beginning of another.
This season is also the time of year that I, along with others, must face many painful anniversaries.
Most of us have them. You know the ones, those heart-rending dates that loom ahead on the calendar. We strive to remember a loved one after they have passed away. We try to blot out hurtful memories and heartbreaks from broken relationships. But we can never forget those events that forever changed our lives or the life of someone else.
What do we do with those kinds of anniversaries? How do we get beyond the deep sorrow and move toward the joy of spring and new life?
There are scientific reasons to explain seasonal changes. But when it comes to losing a loved one, there is no earthly explanation that can soothe my hurting soul. I have no textbook answer as to why one person lives a long life and another is taken away in their youth. Nor do I understand why disease claims the life of one yet leaves another untouched or why some relationships thrive while others barely survive or wither away. All I do know is that these losses and other tragedies are a part of this life. I trust that God has a purpose and a reason, even if I never see good come of it.
“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah” (ESV, Ps. 62:8)
Each year when these painful anniversary dates come and go, there is always a time of reflection, soul-searching, and letting go of emotions yet again.
“But for me it is good to be near to God; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,” (Ps. 73:28)
“For your name’s sake, O LORD, preserve my life! In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!” (Ps. 143:11)
“He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” (Ps. 23:3)
Then I prayerfully and purposefully dwell on joyful memories of laughter and family gatherings. I breathe in the crisp air and enjoy the sights and smells of fall. I rejoice because somehow, even after deep sorrow, God once again reminds me how to smile.
“I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!” (Ps. 27:13)