October. Such a dramatic time in the yearly flow of seasons– beautiful but often turbulent. One moment unbearably bright and fresh, with the bluest of skies highlighting the crispy, colored leaves as they drift. The next moment stormy gray and dark, brewing up the perfect storm with what a 6-yr-old friend of mine likes to call “evil scientist weather.” (I’m keeping my eye on this boy– he might be destined for greatness!). October is the film noir starlet: gorgeous, moody, unpredictable. It opens with gentle whispers of Indian summer, but gives way, with sudden starts and reversals, to ominous Halloween winds.
My emotions run the same gamut in this month of milestones and memories– especially in a 5-day period near the middle of the month. My oldest daughter was born in that part of October. She is and has always been a joy in my life– from when she was a little girl looking up at me with big eyes and wispy ringlet curls, to now when I see her looking out across the mountaintops with her long, wild curls blowing out behind her. One of my adorable little nephews was born a few days– and many years– later. He is the kind of kid who makes you smile just to look at him. In a different year, we celebrated a family wedding in a beautiful destination around the same day, and I think back on that and relish the sense of family and happiness from that time.
But some of the remembered events of the week are not so wonderful. Just a few years ago, we lost a much-loved uncle right between those happy milestones. And most recently, just two years ago, I lost my best friend during this same week. I’ve written about Gigi before– the things that spilled out in my grief: memories, pain of loss, guilt for losing touch. Really, she was such a unique, fun, irreplaceable person– this I know for certain because of the huge hole I still feel in knowing she’s not here anymore.
She was the kind of person who put people first and was never too busy to be a friend. She remembered little things you told her, and what you liked (or didn’t like). She was full of surprises– clever and funny things she would say, creative gifts that she made herself with you in mind, or little notes or doodles you might find in your notebook. Like this note I found in my memo book after her last visit a few years ago. “I’ll be missing you when you read this note!” she wrote. She had no idea what that little scribbled note would come to mean to me, or that it would be a goodbye of sorts. Nor could she know how very much I would be missing her every time I read her note– and in all the times between.
One vow I made to myself after Gigi died was to try to honor her by taking better care of my friendships. I’m working on it– trying to reach out more and let my friends know I really care about them. Of course, I’m still kind of absent-minded– likely to ask you the same question I asked yesterday, before that forehead-smacking moment when your patient answer reminds me I’d already asked. And I still get into that stick-to-your-track mode when I feel like everything will derail if I stop to call or write a friend who’s not on the daily track. But I’ve come to realize that “Later-when-I’m-not-so-busy” is not an actual space on the calendar or slot on the clock.
Coming off this intense week of memories both beautiful and bleak, I feel like I’ve earned the right to advise: don’t forget to take the moment– write a note to a friend, go for a quick coffee-date, or make a phone call just to check on someone who’s been on your mind. October’s change of seasons should remind us, at least, that life is always changing and you should never take it for granted.
Even so, my hope for each of us is that the beauty will always outshine the bleak.