pexels-photo-56944What do you call it?

September, the month across Canada when we notice the trees and plants are changing. In your neighbourhood, perhaps they are turning colours of golden yellow, vibrant orange or crimson red? Some leaves seem to remain green until they actually turn brown and fall off the tree. Our Oak tree seemed to want to hold onto many leaves until early spring. Then there are the many evergreen trees. What do these colours do for you? I realized that in late August, when I started to notice these changes, I became inwardly reflective.

Do you call this season autumn or fall? Apparently ‘autumn’ is an American version and ‘fall’, came from our British ancestors, named for the time of year that leaves fall. We also celebrate Thanksgiving and Hallowe’en during these months. It is known in North America as the ‘cooling off time’ – the period between the heat of summer and the cold of winter.

I was wondering how this relates to my grief journey and thinking there are many similarities. The first stage of my grief journey seemed like the deepest cold of winter and gradually I emerged to spring, then summer and autumn/fall. This journey continues. The cold days, perhaps Tim’s birthday or anniversary of the explosion, still cross my path at least once a year, but the season of my grief journey that I enjoy is fall, when I get to reflect on his life. The missing part seems to carry through all the seasons in a variety of ways. Watching a child learn to develop a new skill, struggle with an assignment at school, all memories that I carry with me. We had fun birthday dinners, even crazy birthday cakes. He was so pleased, when I would take a 9 x 13 cake and attempt to create whatever was favourite in his life at the time. He had a sense of humour that would frustrate me at times. And why is it that when kids get to be old enough to keep their rooms tidy by themselves, it rarely happens? Interesting stages of life. We help them make that bed when they are young and they are so eager to make it themselves, then they do for a few years, then they turn into a teenager, and do they forget? When I turn a corner and see the leaves turning colours, I am reminded of Tim and his friends, the laughter they brought into our lives and into our home.

We have all heard and read about the seasons of grief. We have learned they are not linear, they run in cycles and not always in anticipated rhythm. Just like the seasons of the weather, we don’t really have a lot of control over them. Sometimes there’s a dark day; most times not nearly as painful as the early days. When we allow for the seasons, we have lots of opportunities. When I feel the pain of missing Tim in a ‘cold’ season, I know that is because of how much I love him. When I fall, I know that tomorrow will be a spring day and that all the seasons carry the values we shared while Tim was growing up, challenging his brothers, having dinner on the run, burning his popcorn, forgetting to clean up the kitchen after himself. Wonderful visions and memories. The opportunities that fall leaves give to me.

I hope you share your fall – the beautiful colours of your memories – with others. Don’t expect a response; everyone will reflect in their own head their own image. Perhaps find a simple way at a family meal, during Thanksgiving family times, perhaps as children are preparing for Hallowe’en. It takes courage to share. Start with a simple sentence.

Shirley Hickman

Shirley Hickman is founder and executive director of Threads of Life. She has worked in nursing and social services, and is also a Threads of Life family member.
Shirley Hickman
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