for release October 4, 2002
by Melodie Davis
The Cycle of Life
Each fall the first tips of leaves at the top of the sugar maple tree in my backyard catch my breath-always more brilliant than other trees in the fall. I'm grateful that someone planted it there. Instantly I'm transported to a feeling of fall and a reminder of the continuing cycles in nature and in life.
On a brilliant October morning I take a walk through an urban woods, grateful for the people with foresight who allow this patch of old forest to stand, though encroached on every side by housing developments, businesses, highways. Not far from a busy four-lane highway, a huge old log is allowed to rot supplying rich refreshment to the undisturbed ground below: ants carry out the work. A squirrel lets me get as close as three feet before scampering to the other side of a tree. The squirrel's cheeks bulge with nuts for winter, I suppose.
Why can we accept the rhythms of life in nature-but have more trouble with accepting the turning tables of aging? An irony hit me in reading an article by a woman who was caring for her mother with Alzheimer's. She wrote how, in the early stages of Alzheimer's, her mother would frequently keep her up for hours every night, hunting for something she had misplaced and refusing loudly to go back to bed until she had found it. I'm sure that daughter kept her mother awake many nights, too, as an infant. But how difficult for the situation to be reversed.
My father is diabetic and of course shouldn't eat much candy. He watches his diet and his weight very well (with Mom constantly looking over his shoulder), but keeps a stash of M&M's for sweet cravings. This summer while we were visiting them, he gave me an extra dollar one day when I was running to the store for him: "Go across the street when you're in town to the dollar store where they have three packs of M&M's for a dollar," he requested.
At the store, the clerk assumed I was getting the candy for my children and said something about hoping the candies didn't melt in their hands. "Actually these are for my father," I replied, recognizing again how the tables had turned. (And I wanted to hug her for thinking I would have children young enough to still be begging for candy.)
As teens we plead with our parents for the keys to the car, and then we get to the place where they need to take the keys away from us. Our parents cleaned up our messes when we had toileting accidents, and then we get to the place where we have to clean up after our parents. This should not be shameful: this should be as natural and as expected as the tree in the forest returning to mulch and then to sod. Our parents fed us as infants, and wiped our dribbled chins. We will probably get to the place where we feed our parents, and wipe their chins. Happy is she/he who can accept these cycles without undue mortification or depression.
I love October for I no longer have to look at my garden with the guilt of the undone facing me: it is time to let it go (okay, we should be plowing it under, but the tomatoes are not screaming at me: please weed the garden). In the same way, as we age, letting go of the past and moving along in years can be a welcome release from having to do everything or so much. Mind you, I'm not there yet. But these thoughts help me deal with the advancing years of my parents.
The writer of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament scriptures many years ago wrote eloquently: "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted" (Ecclesiastes 3: 1-2).
The Creator somehow endowed the squirrel (or did he learn it from his parents?) with the knowledge that the season of winter is coming: you better tuck away some nuggets to carry you through the long, chill days of winter. Later in Ecclesiastes we read the somewhat foreboding reminder: "Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come, and the years draw near when you will say, "I have no pleasure in them" (Ecclesiastes 12:2). And here again I'm grateful that someone had the foresight to warn me to treasure these fleeting days-of October and life in general. My parents have prepared me well for the later years, both by their example and their bringing me up with an appreciation for my Creator and my place in the cycle of life.
For a free copy of my book Why Didn't I Raise Radishes: Finding God in the Everyday, write to: Melodie Davis, Another Way c/o Name\Address of YOUR newspaper; or e-mail: Melodie@mennomedia.org.
You can also visit Another Way on the Web at www.thirdway.com.
Melodie Davis is the author of seven books and has written her column since 1987. She taught feature writing and has won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Virginia Press Women and the American Advertising Association. She and her husband have three daughters.
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