The fall season, especially in Richland County, is thrilling. Every leaf color combination possible lights up the grayest of days.
Trees show off their height, like nature’s cathedrals, pointing our attention higher, even as the topmost branches send leaves like confetti in celebration down to our feet.
Then it’s over and we don’t see much happening in these trees for the next half a year.
It’s amazing to me that this glorious display of spendthrift color is at the end of the leaves’ lifespan.
They save the best for last.
I (and you, maybe?) tend not to do that.
If I see the end coming, I often start to pull back. I reserve energy, love, resources and kindness. I am moving on to the next thing, and that often seems more worthy of my attention than what will soon be history. I assume the best already happened.
And if there are difficulties with my current situation, what does it hurt to let some complaints or other negative energy loose as I distance myself?
Ah, but the way of the leaves suggest a different option. What if we threw our best efforts into the goodbye?
I have witnessed high-performing professionals give their two-week to 90-day notice and put the remaining time in at low effort and respect. This prompted me to discuss “senioritis” with high school students when I was a youth group advisor.
We talked about investing even more so that as the school year came to a close in relationships and assignments and opportunities that will likely never present themselves again. We considered leaving legacies of quality engagement and honoring teachers as well as those coming behind. And even though no one had to, we thought about keeping standards high simply because it feels better — it is closer to our true selves.
Here’s the thing: all of us have whatever we need to be our best at any given time. We have the wisdom, the kindness, the talent, and the energy to end as gloriously as autumn leaves.
Anita Garrison, of Mansfield, lives this way. She is a joyful, friendly person, who looks out for those around her. She had Crohn’s disease for an unknown amount of time before she was diagnosed with a severe case three years ago. Then she found out she had a liver disease. She’s also battled blot clots, a brain bleed and multiple bouts of septic shock. We feared for her life five different times!
Yet every time we see her again, she is grateful and beaming and her typical sarcastic. She has more going wrong in her body than should be compatible with life, but that is not her focus. Instead, she decides, daily, to live as well as possible.
Anita is currently struggling greatly with her health again.
Here’s what I want to copy from Anita and from leaves:
All of my life so far has literally brought me to my next day, my next breath, my next step, my next word. What I do with these next is up to me.
Focusing on my struggles saps the essence of who I am.
It is much less fun or healthy for me and the people around me when I judge, complain, gossip or undermine. I don’t want an ending where the main character turns petty or selfish.
I can consciously bring the big-heartedness that I have brought in my best moments.
I want to consider what the ending might look like and feel like if I offered the gifts of grace, joy, forgiveness and beauty.
There may be a different narrative to an ending than a sad, half-hearted one: it may be one of my most glorious, brilliant moments.
I know all these ideas will take great effort. Maybe the most effort. And maybe the ending will be excellent!