When I used to think of October, the first thoughts that would come to mind were pumpkins, spiced everything, football, and the beginning of fall. I love fall. As a child, it was just what I longed for after the start of the school year. It meant that the holidays were coming and there was a lot to look forward to.
For the past few years, October has been my most eventful and intense month of the year. Three Octobers ago, my husband and I picked up our son Joshua for the final time and spent almost half the month in South Carolina waiting for paperwork to go through. I remember feeling both intense joy and perpetual helplessness. We adjusted to our “new normal” by enrolling Josh in preschool, introducing him to family and friends, and celebrating our first Halloween together. We also attended my grandfather’s 102nd birthday. I remember being in a constant state of awareness and disbelief. It was one of the best months of my life, and one of the most exhausting.
Two Octobers ago, my “not so new” family reunited in the mountains with some of our closest friends. We experienced nature and rest and fun together. Upon returning home, two other dear friends were undergoing an immense trial of having their baby, Ari, rushed to the NICU where she teetered between life and death for weeks. Walking through such intense pain and heartache with friends created a heightened emotional state that our entire community lived in throughout the month. I don’t think I have ever prayed harder in my life. Everything seemed fragile. Alongside this intensity, my family was also experiencing our first round of “repeats”: Josh’s second year of preschool, my grandfather’s 103rd birthday, and the beginning of our second holiday season.
This year, as October approached, I had much to be thankful for and look forward to. Sweet Ari was thriving and doing great as we were all getting ready to celebrate her 1st birthday, for which we had fervently prayed. I was busy preparing for the wedding of my cousin Molly who has been like a little sister to me throughout my life. And in the midst of all the excitement, I expected one more thing to remain consistent- we would celebrate my grandfather’s birthday at the end of October like we always have.
Then I got the call from my brother that changed things. My grandfather was in the hospital again, and this time, there was talk of “the end”. I spent the rest of the month of October going back and forth from Orlando to Gainesville visiting him in the hospital, then in his home with hospice care, and making his funeral arrangements with my family. When his 104th birthday finally came the day after his funeral, I felt depleted. This October, with all of its extreme highs and lows, took everything out of me. By God’s grace, I mustered up enough energy from my reserve tank on the very last day of the month to enjoy a great Halloween with my family.
The last three years, my Octobers have been roller coasters of emotions. I have agonized and waited. I have anticipated and celebrated. I have prayed desperately for life and I have made peace with death. I have spent time with my dearest loved ones and I have been reminded of the pain of separation and loss. And I have walked away from each October feeling utterly exhausted, yet more connected and grateful. In the midst of all the uncertainty and change, each October I am drawn more intimately to God and knitted more closely together with others.
Although I can look back on my Octobers with tremendous gratitude and fondness, I can’t help but also feel relieved to see November come. While my Octobers have been filled with change and uncertainty, my Novembers seem to bring a familiar comfort. The start of the holiday season is accompanied by traditions and history and collective experiences that feel warm and inviting. The change in weather (even in Florida) seems to bring a change in energy that I welcome. I look forward to November.
But I do not dread October. I have learned more about myself these past 3 Octobers than any other season in my life. I can push through the pain and heartbreak for the intimacy and depth of relationships. And because of my Octobers, I have a clearer picture of redemption and faith. When I find myself questioning if God really has a plan for me as we wait eagerly for more children, I can reflect on the October when my longing to be a parent was met with the sweetest face I have ever seen. When I doubt that God answers prayer, I can scroll through Instagram and see a picture of precious Ari playing and laughing, and I remember how desperately so many people prayed for her. When I find myself fearing pain and death, I can remember my grandfather’s dream about the never-ending road and the legacy of his life that lives on in his family.
And when I feel alone, I can think back on my Octobers and picture the moments of true connection I have experienced- watching my family and my husband’s family embrace our son in South Carolina; staying up late responding to group texts from my community of friends as we waited for updates on Ari; dancing to the Brady Bunch with all my extended family at my cousin’s wedding and reminiscing about our childhood. Standing around my grandfather’s bed after he died with my brother and sister feeling fully known and understood and loved.
We can’t perpetually exist in a heightened emotional state without some pretty significant consequences, but there are seasons in life where we have to. And in those seasons, I feel more deeply and acutely aware of my surroundings, my relationships, and my need for God and others. Those seasons are my Octobers. And I wouldn’t trade them for anything.