The leaves are exchanging their life-filled greens for their vivid death-filled yellows, oranges and reds. They are beginning to fall gracefully from the trees and blanket the ground with their crunchy beauty. You can do little to avoid stepping on the leaves that now litter the paths and yards here in the Midwest.
Like the leaves, I can do little to avoid the memories that fall upon me as summer gives way to autumn and autumn to winter. I am currently in the “this-time-last year” mode.
The pictures of the vacation we took “this time last year” show the beautiful fall colors of South Dakota and four happy children enjoying a romp in Custer State Park as their 3 month old little sister looks on from her carseat.
Soon, there will be Thanksgiving “this time last year” and the turmoil that came just a few short days after that.
From there, the air will turn cold and snow may fall, and I will remember “this time last year” when we lived in a hospital for weeks on end as my daughter underwent multiple surgeries.
Next, will be Christmas “this time last year” when we brought her home from the hospital and all her siblings showered her with lots of love and Christmas gifts.
Then, another round of “this time last year” in the hospital with yet another surgery, but the solid hope that she would heal and not need any more.
After that will come my birthday “this time last year”, when I quickly snapped a picture of a sweet 7 month old Emmy in her little white hat and floral overalls sitting like a china teacup on our couch.
Then, will come February 10. And “this time last year” will be the last time I can include a living memory of my little Emily. That memory will not be pleasant. It will be filled with pain and grief.
From there, I will remember funeral preparations and on February 14, I will remember the day I last saw my child’s face, the day I said goodbye.
After that, “this time last year” will begin to include different memories. Eventually, “this time last year” will include a new little one. The grief will change a bit at that point because I will have walked through all the firsts.
This season is a difficult one. I find the tears slip from my eyes more readily these days. I find that as I nuture the babe within, I am all the more aware of the child we are without.
The pain is much different from the agony of those first months. It is a pain based on memories, many of them good memories. It is strange dichotomy.
But as I walk this memory-filled path, I am not alone. There is One who knows my pain. There is One who walks alongside me, bottles my tears, holds me up when I stumble. To every question, He is my answer. To every stormy moment, He is my rock. Never before have I known so acutely what it means to trust in the Lord. Not until “this time last year.”