Autumn is my favorite season, not just for the sheer beauty of the colors, but for how poignantly it depicts transition in our lives. The phrase “…the wind passes over it and it is gone…” often comes to mind as I watch the crazy dance of the falling leaves blow across my path. There’s something about the sheer abandonment of this act that makes me laugh aloud, while simultaneously feeling sadness for the passing of all that beauty. The juxtaposition of joy and sorrow, life and loss…

The crazy dance of falling leaves does not yet hint of the promise of spring and new beginnings. But for those of us who have lived through the constant cycle of the seasons, we know that this hope is a reality.

Not that long ago, I sat by the bedside of a precious friend in hospice. I watched as my daughter performed Bach’s 2nd cello suite; tears trickled down her face for her beloved Latin teacher whose season on this earth was fading.

I watched as the other visitors in the room spontaneously began to join in song – lifting their voices in impromptu concert – as my daughter transitioned into singing and playing some simple worship songs. My friend moved her hands weakly to the music; her beautiful voice now impeded, her vision dimmed, her hearing limited, but her joyous spirit still free to soar with the simple music that filled her little hospice room.

Through my own tears and aching heart, I thought of this gift we have in jars of clay: the privilege of being able to encourage the heart and spirit through music. It was actually the day of my daughter’s 17th birthday. We were about to head out of town, but she did not want to miss seeing her former teacher, also a musician, one more time. So we brought her cello with us, not knowing what to expect.

What we did not expect was to be surprised by the joy in the midst of the pain. My friend knew where she was going, just as surely as we know that spring will come. The pain was in the fact that she was leaving many loved ones behind and that it seemed too early for her season on earth to end. How clearly we are made for eternity. The passing of a season – be it a childhood, a job, a relationship, or, in this case, a life, is never easy or painless.

My friend once bemoaned the fact that no one likes to talk about death although it is such an integral part of life. I guess that is why autumn is so special to me.  It reminds me that life is fleeting – we should seize the opportunity to dance with abandon…

Like those twirling leaves.