It rained during the night. This morning, pregnant grey clouds blanket the sky, the ground is covered in moisture. The air is cool. Autumn hides in the leaves of the giant poplar at the end of my backyard, peeks out from amidst the lush greenery with a dapple of yellow spotted leaves here and there. I hunt for them like an ornithologist on the lookout for a coveted sighting of a rare bird. Unlike the birder, when I spot a few yellow leaves this morning, I am not delighted with the sighting. Autumn is around the corner.
I live in a zone of four distinct seasons. There's no missing their arrival and their departure. They flow through time, colouring my world with variations on a theme. Once green leaves turn russet and gold and red. They wither and die and fall to the ground to be buried beneath a blanket of snow covering the world in protective wonder. Winter rumbles through with blasts of arctic air that blows the snow up against the fences we've erected to keep it from drifting onto highways and roadways of our daily lives. By springtime, winter is tired of the battle and gives way to spring's warm rains and gentle breezes. New life appears from beneath the barren lands burbling along like a stream released from winter's ice into summer.
To all things there is a season. To all lives there is a reason. To love. To play. To laugh. To forgive. To forget. To move through each passing day with joy and grace, revelling in the wonder of the seasonal display of nature's beauty -- and sometimes folly.
This morning, rain hangs in the sky waiting for a moment of release.
I had dinner with a very dear friend last night. Just over a year ago his marriage ended after 20+ years. He was broken hearted. Desolate. Lost. Filled with fear and questions. Who am I when I am not coupled with the woman who promised to love me forever? What do I do when I have no family, no home, no place to belong? Where do I go when I come home to an empty space with no one to fill the moments between silence and night's surrender?
Since being foisted out of the marital bed, he has struggled to come to grips with his pain, his sorrow, his confusion. He is a courageous man. He hasn't backed down from challenging his fear of greeting the man in the mirror. I have watched him through the past four seasons as he's grown and changed and learned and moved into the stages of grieving: anger, denial, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
Grief is not a straight line. It doesn't stretch out before us like a yellow line on a highway. Sometimes, it's broken. Sometimes, its course parallels another, one solid, one broken. Sometimes it's like winter's cold arctic wind blasting the furnace of summer. Hot. Cold. Frigid. Freezing. Grief sweeps in with a discordant frenzy blowing away all misconceptions we might have had about life and living, death and dying, love and endings.
For my friend, his grieving process has encompassed so much more than the loss of a life and family he counted on to his dying day. It's been about looking back at the devastation, searching through the debris of his married life that was preceded by his family of origin life. With each shovel of dirt lifted up to expose the layer beneath, he's found the markers leading the way to understanding who he was, who he became and who he is meant to be.
There's no clear pathway to grieving. Sure the steps are labelled. But we dip in and out of them, around and under. In one moment overwhelmed by our anger that someone would dare to leave, dare to desert us, dare to change their mind or have a different mindset than our own. Mixed in with our anger is the sadness that we cannot change what has happened, what came down, what went wrong. We cannot change someone else's life.
We grieve. The passing of a day. The passing of a life. The passing of a love affair. We grieve our broken hearts. Our lost innocence. Our forgotten love. We grieve from the roots of our toes, letting the pain and sorrow and fear and sadness, the apathy, the disillusionment, the disbelief boil up in our bodies, rise up in our psyches. We cannot keep our grief inside. We must let it out.
My friend is very courageous. Sure, he's tried to run away. Tried to hide himself in someone else's arms. At times, he's even tried to drink his grief into oblivion or mask it behind a facade of carefully erected images meant to deflect the onlooker from the truth of what he's feeling, what he's experiencing. He's made mistakes. And he's growing. Changing. Moving through the pain of knowing who he was is nothing compared to who he can be when he lets go of grieving and steps fearlessly into living his life with passion.
He's worn his grief with courage, and learned to grow through the pain of grieving the seasonal passing of life with all its promise of new birth, old growth and full-blossomed splendour. He's grieving. And he's living each day finding something new, something miraculous to cling to, to give meaning to the steps he's taking to find his answers so that he can continue to grow and heal and change and move through the seasons of change falling all around him. So that he can fall in love with himself -- the me, myself and I of his creation.
Life is a process of rejoicing and of grieving -- the passing of a minute, an hour, a day. We welcome dawn and say farewell to night. We welcome new friends and say good-bye to old. We embrace change and let go of growth that held us back.
Life is a journey best taken with our hearts and minds open in love. Savour it. Revel in it. Live it. Love it. And laugh lots.