Thankful for the falling leaves

(Joy Purcell/

I head to my office every Monday morning with my wake-up coffee to start my column.  Usually, a theme has percolated in my mind all week, so when I type the first sentence, the words pour onto the page.

Today, I sit at my desk with the same coffee cup, and all I can think of is, “Why is my neighbor’s leaf blower so loud?!” My percolating brain has been on the fritz all week.  My mind has centered on preparing for the vacation and the looming holiday season. Packing and gift ideas have left little room for column thought.

I call my “go-to partner” for help. “God, what do you want me to write about this week?  Got any ideas?”

Again, silence, except for the leaf blower. I glance out my window to check how much longer I must contend with the pesky racket when a flurry of leaves falls past my window in a shower of orange and gold.

In the 1950s, most folks owned a stereo housed in a piece of furniture called a console.  Our house was no exception. My Dad loved to play albums while whistling along with the music.

Johnny Mercer wrote the English lyrics to a French song from the 1940s called “Autumn Leaves.” The song was recorded by many in the years to follow. To this day, when leaves start to fall, I find myself humming its tune.

Even as a child, the song made me unhappy. “Daddy, why do you always play that gloomy old tune?” I would question. “Isn’t it about losing someone important?”

“Well, it depends on how you look at it. You hear the loss, and I hear the love,” he would answer.

Most of us have experienced love and loss. Whether it was caused by death, illness, rejection, or just waving a painful goodbye, it was still a heartbreak. Our grief hurts and is debilitating. We endure sleepless nights and long, sad days.

Someone will be reading this today, facing each day with enormous trepidation because of grief. They wonder how they can get through today, much less the holidays.  Many will say, “There is not much to be thankful for this season.”

I have a friend who has endured many losses in life. Both her husband and daughter are gone. However, when I see her face, it is joyful. She honors their memory with faith; God shines through her like a beacon. Her tragedy has inspired others to heal and regain hope.

Sometimes, I also grieve for a lost loved one, but they were a gift to my life. To experience love, to experience sharing a deep connection with another, and to have their existence cross my path is a reason to be very thankful.

When I think of the people I have loved, I long to see them again. I long to have them be as they were, a part of my daily life.

However, am I happy they once were? You bet! I have found that losing is often a recipe for appreciation. I would not take anything for the love that God gave me to share with them. It is their love and my loss that made me stronger, brought me closer to God, and taught me how to lend a helping hand to a heartbroken friend. That pain created more empathy for others and caused me to write the words I share with you.

Losing family and friends has made me appreciate those still on life’s journey with me. I am more aware of how precious and fragile life is and how each person is a gift.

We should appreciate the folks gathered at our tables and the love that we share. We must be thankful for a merciful God who aids us through tragedy and reminds us that no loss is ever truly final.

In my memory, I see my vacations and holidays filled with family that once were here. I smell the roses an old love once gave me and hear my father whistling a tune as the stereo plays on. I choose not to recall the pain of their loss; I instead desire to remember their love.

The leaf blower has gone silent, and I smile as I watch the autumn leaves drift by my window.

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