[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=autumn+tree+lake&iid=158384″ src=”http://view.picapp.com/pictures.photo/image/158384/trees-and-lake-autumn/trees-and-lake-autumn.jpg?size=500&imageId=158384″ width=”500″ height=”333″ /]On a glorious autumn day (high is 70, trees are turning), I’m in the library, observing the great outdoors through a wall of window. Perched on the second floor, I look out over a small lake surrounded by trees bursting with red, orange and gold. The sun shines bright, a blue jay flits from branch to branch. It is a scene from a Hallmark special presentation or a Disney flick. I half expect to see Laura Ingalls skipping through the trees with her little dog, Jack, nipping at her heels…
Inside, where I am, though, sniffles and coughs assault–at least six different souls are coughing and sniffling, oh and one baby is crying.
Tis the season of change, tis the season of cold and flu.
In Minnesota, seasons change dramatically. Winter is a white barren wasteland, a frozen tundra only ice fishermen and hearty skiers and snowmobilers appreciate. Short days and snow shovels rule. Spring is winter melt-off season–mud buddies up with bright green buds and tender shoots. New life asserts itself and claims a win. Summer shouts “Life” and throws a party replete with long days, warm nights and lush vegetation. Minnesotans come out to play! Autumn is bittersweet. We know the party is ending, that death is winning yet the season splashes us with days like today. Even when we’re sneezing and coughing, we smile. Autumn has a short life, yet like fireworks shot into the sky, it goes out with a splashy blast of color and pomp. We pause, look around and say “awww”; we rake her leaves into piles and jump; we celebrate her final moments, even as we cough and clear our throat.
I don’t know why autumn finds us clutching Kleenex. I was taught colds and flu had to do with viruses and germs, not weather changes. Yet we all know, yes, we all know more is afoot than mere germs and bacteria. Death asserts itself over more than just the landscape. It knocks at our door too and many of us taste it in the form of sickness. Since death is the ultimate illness, most of us get off lucky with only congestion or a sore throat. Some, though, will die this week. Some have already died this week. I know of at least three who’ve passed on this week…how about you?
Autumn officially began a week ago yesterday. The days continue to shorten, cool air overtakes warm, plants die or shed and go dormant, birds shrug and head south, squirrels happily bounce through leaves with their harvest. We celebrate bringing in the sheaves–we bring them in as we start hunkering down with Nyquil close at hand. Most of us will survive this round with death, we will win…this time.
One day our autumn will come. Death will pop in and, one way or another, we’ll slow significantly, we’ll be invited to embrace death. We’ll shed the mortal, the sensible, and enter the immortal, the ineffable. Just as surely as leaves turn color, just as surely as milkweed seeds fly, we’ll exit the known and enter the unknown.
Who we are as we pass will be noted by those who, like accident scene gawkers, slow to look. What will our parting mean to them? Will they see splashes of God’s glory as we go? Will they pause and say “awww” at the beauty of our dying? Will we die with love flowing through us? Will our death encourage them to live well?
I don’t know, I can’t see my last day. I suppose it could be today… What do they see? Is it beautiful like an oak in autumn? Is it bursting yellow and red with His love and goodness?
What do they hear? Is it a song sweet to the ear? Does it make a heart sing praises to the One who gives and takes away?
What will they recall when they speak of me?
As I grab a Kleenex and stifle a cough, I wonder…maybe I have more time, maybe I’ll survive this year’s season of dying, maybe God will give me time to surrender the places I cling to, the people I grasp at, the dark corners I keep to myself. Will I do it, though? Will I surrender? Will I say “yes” to all He asks, even when it hurts terribly? Can He be trusted to make my life sing so my ending is beautiful? Can He be trusted to use what is so that, after I die, what was creates a glorious what will be?
I’ve been sitting here quite awhile…the shadow of the building is encroaching on the tree line. Darkness descends, day is ending. Autumn will give way to winter. My day is coming, yes, my day is coming…