The start of spring is clear. I can always spot and name the first flower that appears in my garden – a crocus pushing up through either dead leaves or snow.
Fall is more ambiguous as the season of endings and dying. I never know when I have seen the last of a flower, because I cannot know when the killing frost will come.
Sure, I can see from the average frost dates that my tender annuals are likely to die by a certain point on the calendar. And the many perennials in my yard will go through their bloom cycle and their dormant cycle.
But I never know for sure when I have sniffed my last rose for the season.
Dying is like that. We all know we will die, but we don’t know when. Even those with an acute terminal diagnosis cannot know when the last breath will be expelled.
So what do I do with the ambiguity of fall – in my garden and in my soul? How do I live so I can capture the moments and celebrate the blooms, knowing the present moment may be the last moment?
A few weeks ago I cut a rose from my garden, likely the last rose of the season. It sat as a reminder on my desk, where I could see it in the course of my work day. A reminder to be present and enjoy this rose at this time.
A few weeks ago, I had a professional colleague breath her last.
And my sister had an acquaintance die in a tragic accident.
During our weekly phone chat, my sister and I were each a bit more tender than usual. And we made sure to express our love for each other and appreciation for our relationship as we signed off.
Because we don’t know our last, but we can live with tender and ready souls, embracing the moment and expressing love and care to those we touch in our daily lives. That’s how we get ready for the fall, with its uncertain ending – by being present in each day and celebrating each bloom as if it might be the last. Ready?
P.S. A few days after I wrote this, thinking I had already sniffed my last rose, 2 more roses bloomed in my backyard! A bonus.
Henri Nouwen expressed the fall season of dying with beautiful words – see his quote and other wise thoughts on the quote page.