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When summer turns to fall and the beauty in dying leaves

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It’s an overcast mid-November morning, and the sun keeps trying to break through the clouds, coming in and out like waves of the ocean. The tree right outside my home office has turned bright fiery orange. Nearly half of the leaves have fallen to the ground below. As I type here, the wind blows a strong gust, and many of the leaves on the tree rattle, still holding onto their spot on the branches. Others quietly break off and gently fly through the sky, some soaring through the wind before they land, the others simply dropping to the grass below. It’s peaceful to watch them, and I love this time of year.

It’s only in the last week or so that it really feels like summer has turned to fall in St. Louis, where I live. Last week, as I drove my boys to school each morning, we pointed out the bright yellows, deep reds, and burnt sienna leaves. The three of us oohing and ahhing at their magnificence. This weekend I walked outside for a brief moment to take out the trash, and I got a whiff of autumn in the air, the mixture of cool pine and a warm fire. Someone in the neighborhood must have been tending to one, and I paused to soak it all in as I know this beauty in the air won’t last for long.

Ever since my daughter June passed away, I find it interesting that when the leaves fall, they die. And I can’t help but think about how sacred it is to watch this process that happens over a few weeks. Around this time of year, I begin to see quotes on social media, such as, “the leaves are about to show us how beautiful it is to let things go.” And every time I see something like that, I think, yes, but it’s more than that. It’s more than letting go. These leaves are dying, and there is beauty, wonder, and hope in it.

I know not everyone will understand this when they read this, but I will share it anyway because I know there are people out there who will. Watching the beauty in the leaves dying each year reminds me of the beauty and peace we witnessed as we ushered June through the final stages of her life. The best way I can describe that time is tragically beautiful, like birthing an angel.

There are two things I remember most about those two weeks leading up to June’s death day: crying and simply being with her. Both were necessary and went in ebbs and flows, sometimes happening simultaneously. When June went on hospice, the world around us stopped like nothing else mattered because it genuinely didn’t. For two weeks, I hardly left the house except to go on short walks because I didn’t want to spend a second without her. I held June nearly every hour of every day as we listened to Van Morrison and Jack Johnson. We watched "Gilmore Girls" on Netflix, and I talked to her about our walks on the beach and through Colorado and the places in between. I kissed her cheeks and stroked the contours of her face, always spending extra time at the curve from her eyebrows to the tip of her nose. In these moments, I had never seen her so at peace, and while I knew the beauty of that couldn’t last forever, it brought me hope. And I soaked it in.

So, after explaining all of that, I will share with you two of my favorite quotes I’ve come across that describe best to me why I love the fall so much.

"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

"Just before the death of flowers, and before they are buried in snow, there comes a festival season when nature is aglow." – Unknown

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