September is almost over and despite the balmy temperature today, autumn is here. All my life I have thought of the New Year as starting in September. As a child, a student, a teacher, and a mother – September is the beginning. New back-to-school shoes, fresh notebooks, a welcome return to routine, and wide open possibilities…that is how I have viewed September. And from there we would just cruise toward apple picking and pumpkin carving Octobers. The days would darken early, but that meant Thanksgiving and the cozy offerings of November were around the corner. Anticipation, the promise of the holiday season, and a child’s magical view of December would propel me toward winter.
The September slide was (is?) a lovely tapestry of hope, tradition, family, home (and comfort food too). There are other layers as well, I met my husband in a September, we were in love by winter, we married three years later on an October day.
Two years ago September was the month we found out my husband had cancer. Our wedding anniversary was the last day he was home. He never ate again so Thanksgiving was a painful gathering of family around the corner from the hospital while a brother in law fasted in solidarity. Food had lost its meaning to me except that I needed to eat and show my kids – we have to eat. In December we moved into a Hospice home. A week before Christmas we said goodbye. He was buried the next day. On January 2nd we gathered for his remembrance service.
THAT September slide feels like the eclipse we saw last night, my heart is the moon and there is this shadow blocking the light.
Sometimes I wonder if one version of the September slide will win out over the other. But then I remember that lesson again – two things can exist at the same time even if they seem to cancel each other out. I am slow to wake these days and there is a heaviness to my mornings. I avoid looking at the calendar because I don’t really want to know exactly where I was two years ago to this day. Emergency room? Ambulance? Surgery waiting room? 15th floor hospital room? Reliving the trauma is not helpful. But the body and mind process clues on their own, and then it all comes back in dreams, or just that sinking feeling that can hijack a day. Some grief advice I can take or leave – but anniversary reactions are a real thing.
The truth is that both versions of the September slide are my story. I love autumn but I have to relearn how to celebrate this season. Last year I bought the obligatory pumpkins, showed up for Thanksgiving, spent Christmas in the Caribbean, and wept in a corner on New Year’s Eve. I cried on my way to work today, I laughed on a walk with a friend this evening. I will let the shadow cover me and then pass, for now.
The breadth of my joyful autumn memories means I have much to be grateful for. I have been fortunate to experience the Wonder of the season. I haven’t lived long enough in this life after loss to know how the hard memories and sorrow will be woven in. But the craving to nest is showing up – I will fill my window boxes with pumpkins, light the candles in the darkening afternoon, and maybe I will even make a pie for Thanksgiving! But I am still out of here for Christmas!
I wonder how it is for you?