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Fall is one of the most beautiful times of year.  The air is crisp and cool, the leaves are vivid as they change from green to shades of red, yellow, and gold; the smell of wood smoke is in the air when people begin to light their fires to warm their homes, or burn piles of leaves that have fallen to the ground.  Just like the changing of the seasons, I too have made changes in my attitude toward fall.

When I was small, the changing of the leaves’ colors signaled to me that my birthday was near.  Anticipation of a surprise wrapped in paper with brightly colored ribbon and a special meal of Mom’s fried chicken followed by cake with my family members all singing to me gave me such excitement.  I remember asking my mother nearly every day, “When is it my birthday?” feeling as if the day would never arrive.

When I grew to be a teenager, I lost my beloved grandmother just two weeks before my thirteenth birthday.  Although the feelings of pain and sadness became less severe with the passing of time, the heartache returned when summer began to fade.  An overwhelming feeling of sadness came over me whenever I noticed the leaves turning to bright colors of red, yellow, and gold.

When I was a young woman with children of my own, I lost my father just one day before the tenth anniversary of my grandmother’s death.  I no longer felt the anticipation and excitement of a young child as my birthday drew near.  I did, however, enjoy memories of my loved ones who were no longer with me.  Each year as fall approached, I remembered the special times we’d spent together; I recalled the things I most appreciated about my grandmother and father.

Four years ago, as fall approached I received the very painful news that my mother was dying.  Overwhelmed with feelings of grief, I felt that a part of me was also dying.  I felt as though I’d never survive the loss of my mother.

Why is it always in the fall I wondered when my heart is broken. Why not in winter when everything outside is already dead, cold, and barren? I hate fall.  Fall brings nothing but death and sadness. Everything dies in the fall.

While working through my feelings of grief after losing my mother, I came to the conclusion that she would want me to enjoy life.  She wouldn’t want me to sit around feeling sad and hopeless.  I believe that she would want to think of me enjoying everything about life, the sorrows that bring us strength and growth as well as the happy times we cherish and hold dear.

Through the passing of time and the many experiences that life has given me, I have learned that we are each responsible for our own happiness.  We, alone, are responsible for all of our feelings. Our attitude is a choice.  During this fall season when everything around me begins to change, it feels as if I have a renewed appreciation for fall.  I am once again enjoying a long-time forgotten appreciation for all the beauty around me, the flocks of geese flying in perfect formation, the scenery, the sunrise and sunset, and yes the changing of the seasons.

Like the seasons, I too have changed.  I have come to appreciate all the different seasons, and I look forward to each one as I start to notice the tell-tale signs of one season moving in to another.  Fall has once again become a time for celebration, a season of happiness rather than a season of sadness filled with memories of pain and loss.  I celebrate my life, my loved ones who are still with me as well as my ancestors who have gone on before me.  I look forward to another birthday, another season, another new beginning.  Welcome fall!

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