“I hope I can be the autumn leaf, who looked at the sky and lived. And when it was time to leave, gracefully it knew life was a gift.” – Dodinsky
Autumn, with all its glorious colours and earthy scents, always brings me closer to my own sense of mortality. In the beauty of the dying leaf, with all of its eye-catching brilliance, I’m reminded of those that I’ve both loved and lost and of the magic that shrouded their later days. Death belongs to the dying yet arguably its lessons are for the living, for it is those who will carry the story forward in time. In those final days, time seems to lose its relevance and only moments come to exist – an unanticipated smile or the squeeze of a hand. As nature submits to death we open our eyes to see.
It’s my grandmothers eyes that I recall from our parting – the flecks of green in her otherwise hazel iris as she’d examined the colours of my own soul during her anticipated death. There’d been both trust and knowing in those eyes as I’d whispered my words of forever-love, her breaths becoming ever more laboured and her skin glistening with beads of sweat. I’d promised her my presence beyond the end and she’d slipped away with no battle at all – as the autumn leaf falls from the tree, spiralling silently to the ground. I had sat with her then as her body had fallen cold, the curve of her nose and the creases in her skin now more important than ever. These would be the memories I’d call upon someday.
Surprisingly I’ve seen those eyes since, returning to hold my gaze during a desperate moment of faithlessness during my son’s recent birth. In the same way I’d walked her across the threshold of death, she’d returned to walk me into motherhood – reminding me of my own possibilities and more importantly, of the need to let go. I’ve been told that there was magic in that moment too – as I released my grip on the life I had known so as to receive a new beginning. As with death, it was a moment for the observer rather than the observed but the similarities are obvious still. Even the autumn trees return a new life in spring but for now, I’m left pondering on their beauty.