Fall is my favorite time of the year, and as I have aged, I am able to understand who I am on a different level. It’s the dying time, and it is as necessary as it is primal for the soul.
I have learned that I must live somewhere with all the seasons as it sets the pace symbolically for how I have chosen to exist. It’s deeper than pumpkin spice and cooler temperatures, and more than the vibrant turning of the leaves, fires, and warm sweaters. It has become my reflection time on the last phase of another year of learning and letting go.
It is also a magical time where adults get the opportunity to play with shadow selves that naturally whisper in their ears to frolic in the darker things. We are allowed to peek between our fingers at spooky images that excite our adrenaline and unsettle us.
I was twenty-three when my father died unexpectedly, and my childhood giggles of dressing up for Halloween and spooky stuff became difficult. I fought the necessity of death in all things, and I was unsettled for quite some time as the leaves fell away to a barren landscape and the coming coldness of winter. I understood winter all too well by that time.
My father’s death shoved me into a struggle with real depression for many years. I dropped out of college, gained 60 lbs. and moved home with my mother. I ravenously read books from all faiths to find an explanation as to why someone so loved and needed could be ripped away from us.
In the end, I decided to become a rock, never loving anything or anyone that deeply again. I made myself invisible and was able to hide in my career as a social worker and therapist to allow hope to flow through me for others, but not necessarily for myself.
I worked and made enough money to survive on. I found other souls searching during that time, and those friends were the touchstones that kept me laughing instead of crying.
Oddly enough, these times were the most vibrant of all, and I have journals full of revelations and truths that had to be addressed. I found that some of the most honest conversations came in sessions with my clients, as there is no faster way to get to the truth than when you are at the bottom of the barrel with nothing else to lose.
My love affair with the fall came on a drive home from a week-long training at Indiana University in Bloomington. It was a warm day in early October and the drive home to Louisville was absolutely breathtaking. The sunroof was open and all the smells and colors of fall swirled around me. My soul took a big breath and exhaled. I realized, death in this world was not something to focus on with paralyzing fear. The real answer was to face it and celebrate the blessings of life in honor of those who no longer get to witness and experience it.
As hard as it is to say, my father’s death was the biggest gift of learning that I have ever received in my life. I drove through colors that I had never seen before, trees were sharing a vibrancy that can only come right before death, and I understood it completely.
I separated the entire world by those that knew a real loss and those that haven’t experienced it yet. I began to see the masks that people wear with one another, and I could see it more clearly than ever before. Thus began my practice at letting go.
I had a therapist for a while after my dad passed and remember walking out on her when she shared with me that I will find real healing when I could find something good in the loss of my father. I never showed up again, and remained angered for many years by her sentiment.
Today, I thank her for being real with me, even if I could not understand at that time. It was too soon. I have no idea how many years it was between our last session and the awakening drive of the fall, but it started my path back to life — my life.
Open your eyes this fall and let the death that is needed come. It may not be a physical death. I have had three internal deaths in my lifetime after five decades of living, and I am enjoying myself now more than ever. My father is with me at all times, especially in fall — the beautiful dying time until the rebirth of spring. •