On my kitchen’s windowsill, there is a big-leafed plant, dark-green in colour. Over the summer month, new leaves began to grow, and old ones were dying. The cycle of life showing itself.
Today, I saw the plants last remaining old leaf had changed drastically in colour. It had become yellow with lots of dark, almost black spots on it. It somehow disturbed me to see this dull and lifeless looking leaf in the middle of those fresh, shiny and deep green ones. Shortly I decided to pluck it out. After all, it was dead, wasn’t it?
Although it seemed as if the leaf would soon fall from the plant by itself, it resisted. Without a thought, I just pulled a little harder, and finally got it in my hand. I saw the base of the leaf stalk was still moist and fresh, as well as the place of the stem, from which the leaf was growing. The leaf wasn’t dead, not yet.
I became upset and began to think about how we treat death in our lives, deaths of all kind, small and big ones like moving from one place to another, getting retired from work, the end of a significant relationship and yes, also the death of a human being.
We are heading from one stage in life to another, without consciously living through the transition phases in between. We may not even recognise when a time of transition is approaching. We are trained to make plans one, three, five or even ten years ahead. That makes us insensitive for phases which occur in our life but are outside of our plans. Times when we just need ”to be”, without heading anywhere.
We tend to think about whether something is alive or dead. But what about the stage of dying? What about our grandmothers and grandfathers living their last days in nursing homes? Do we see them as already dead? Do we think of dying being something passive? Something that just ”happens” to us someday? What about a broader view on death? What, if we could see dying in general as an active part of life? After all, we do experience many little deaths along our path.
There are people, whose lives are full of activity until the last day. They enjoy to live, and for them, there is meaning in every circumstance, even in great hardship. They are not afraid to face life in all its colours and shapes. Others seem to just wait for the final death, but refusing to spend a thought on the days left, instead choosing to yearn for, or grieving the past. This is not only the case with some old people.
What if we would live more consciously through the different stages of our lives? How about deciding where and how to live our remaining days and where our worldly belongings are going, by ourselves? Passing things meaningful to us, like a photograph or a painting, to somebody who will appreciate, maybe with a little story related to them? What if we would use some time to think about what life has taught us, how we used our potential and what we have achieved. What about sharing some of our knowledge and perhaps wisdom with other people? Such time could also include the possibility to forgive and to receive forgiveness. Hopefully, it is mostly full of thankfulness for the people and experiences we had in our lives.
We do need times of evaluation and transition. Not only when facing the end of our life here on earth, but also when moving from one cycle into another.
It is much said about the ability to be present in the moment, which seems to be a difficult task for most of us. But why is that? Making new plans and heading ahead comes with excitement. Being always on the move gives us a feeling of being in charge. New possibilities let us forget what we may have experienced as failures in the past.
One point I think, why we have a hard time to really live through transition times, is that they remind us of what we cannot change – the past. They show us the ”incompleteness” of our life, what hasn’t been achieved regardless of our many great plans we’ve made. They may also make us realise, what we are about to leave behind, although knowing, that we will be missing it deeply in the future. The reality of a broken dream may be shown to us in those times, and sometimes we may even feel lost.
Transition times may make us feel weak. Why? Because they remind us, that there is always an unknown factor in life. We can not control every single occurrence we’re gonna face on our path. Living out a bunch of plans may give us the feeling of controlling our lives, but it does not eliminate certain parts of life itself, like endings, such as death is one of them. And why should it? Aren’t our lives in the hands of the creator God himself? Isn’t there a purpose for everything? Why would we be afraid?
That we are not accepting all elements of life, is obvious. For example, much time is spent on polishing our images, especially on social media. Pictures are filtered, and mostly the bright side of life is shown the world, of course. There is no problem with that, as far as we are able to live all other parts of being in ”real life”. It is just that sometimes we don’t want to get reminded of those facets of life we are uncomfortable with. And yet they are part of a whole and there for a reason.
Fortunately, we have nature – to remind us of life’s cycles. Like a tree in nature lives through the different seasons of the year, changing its appearance according to them, so do we. Only with the difference, that the tree does not rush from one season to another, but instead lives all of them through on time, one after another.
Falling leaves are reminding us of everything coming to an end. But we also know, at the same time the tree is collecting its nutrients from its leaves and stem to its roots to store them until spring. The tree is preparing for a new season. And that is, what transition phases are there for – preparing us for the next part of the cycle.
For the plant on the windowsill in my kitchen – from now on, it will have its leaves until they fall by themselves. That being a reminder to me of lives different phases, which all are there for a purpose, and need to be lived consciously at the time they occur.
Wishing us all an insightful autumn with lots of colourful leaves!