Thursday, September 25, 2008

The First of Autumn

I noticed the first change of leaves two days ago, as I sat on the corner awaiting the girl's school bus to arrive. I often watch her, in her enthusiasm, bound off the bus and run across the street, legs pumping and blonde hair flying in the wind, reflecting the sun. Being five and a half must be a tough gig for a five and a half year old, but the only thing I see in her is innocence and curiosity.

It took me a minute to realize that it was the first day of fall, and I was reminded of my friend K., who took his own life when I was pregnant with the girl, right around this time of year six years ago. I'd seen him a few weeks before his death, and though I knew of his depression and manic episodes, and knew he had ups and downs, the last time I saw him, he was happy and smiling, and gave me a huge hug and congratulated me on the impending arrival of the girl. As it turns out, he was happy because he, like most suicidal people, had a plan and a way out. He was happy because he had made his decision and felt inner peace.

K. hung himself on the last day of summer, before the sun could rise on autumn, before he had to see the leaves change and wither and die, before the snow flew and the air froze and he had to live through another winter of seasonal affective disorder, which I'm told (but never knew personally) exacerbated his depression and kicked his mania into overdrive.

The timing of his death coincided with the anniversary of my grandmother's death as well. She died relatively young (age 66) after an extraordinarily rough life and a case of hepatitis, contracted at the hospital where she worked in the 1960's and '70's, which basically destroyed her liver. I was sixteen when she died and I think I still harbor resentment at my mother's choice to hide the extent of her illness from me. It was a shock when she died, as she was not only my favorite grandparent, she was also the first of my grandparents to die, and the first death I'd ever truly experienced firsthand.

Perhaps that is why I'm so attuned to the change of seasons. This year in particular because I can't help but relive the loss I experienced in the wake of the girl's impending arrival. I mark time in her face and growth. I listen to her voice and watch her eyes sparkle, and I hope like crazy she stays small for just a little longer. It's a joyful thing to raise a child, but nothing else makes you fly headfirst into the wall of your own mortality.

As I sat at the bus stop, and looked into the breeze, I reveled in the movement of the air, and felt warmth. I wonder why the earth takes so long to go dormant, and then in one moment, revive and turn green again. The most beautiful time of the year signifies the end of active growth and a slow retreat into hibernation. It was one of those unexpected moments of reflection and solitude. God gives us life, and retreat, and hibernation, and renewal, and the fleeting moment should be captured, cherished, and I suppose, ultimately released. In that moment, I felt actual loss. The end of summer is upon us, and so many things come to pass when another summer is done.

I breathe the mist
Floating about the stars
I can caress with velvet hands
I breathe the mist
Floating within without
This pen between my fingers

I know you are there
Within without me holding me
I know you are there
Catching carrying this beautiful mess

Escape the pain
Within a room somewhere
Escape the pain
So deep inside the soul
I have no key
No map to find

-- "Within A Room Somewhere" Sixpence None The Richer

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