22nd October 2023

All this week I’ve been thinking of Grandad Lodge and his consistent phrases at this time of year “Ey up! Night’s are drawing in! Winter draws on (and very nice they are too!); not many shopping days to Christmas”. I think he did it as much to wind Grandma Lodge up as anything else. She was an eternal optimist and had no time for her husband’s doom-laden phrases. As we come to the end of October, we’re likely to be wondering where the time has gone; this year is almost over. It is true that as we get older we become aware that life is truly a ‘fleeting’ experience. The psalmist says that our life is like grass: In the morning it springs up and flowers, by evening it withers and fades. And the writer prays to God that He Make us know the shortness of our lives that we may gain wisdom of heart.

This isn’t a bad meditation for me, to be honest. I flourish in the sun (and get burnt, too) but I’m learning that I flourish even more when I am confronted with autumn and winter. In the past I have done anything I can to avoid the ‘dying seasons’ but as I get older, I realise that a sense of mortality has as much to teach me as does the zest for life. In fact, a proper, non-morbid, sense of mortality thrusts me back into a deeper appreciation of life and its ceaseless glories. Having watched the flowers of summer blossom and flourish I am learning to take satisfaction and comfort in the stillness of the autumn garden which has ceased to grow and now quietly prepares itself for death and later, resurrection.

It is all too easy for me to succumb to the negative press ‘associated’ with autumn/winter and start buying into a phraseology of despondence. Jesus teaches us that the signs of the Kingdom can be found in the flowers of the fields and the birds of the air, but it can also be found in the darker side of life such as physical suffering, crushed seeds in the ground etc. The key for Jesus is that God is ever creative; He is not bound by times and seasons nor even death. God is constantly making all things new and that includes me. And you.

True wisdom is found in the one who knows s/he is passing through and who doesn’t want to waste any time being dragged down by despondency and negativity. True, there are times and situations where we feel like our heart is breaking and our lives are fracturing before our very eyes and it is hard to feel anything other than despondency or negativity. It is then that the Church comes into Her own as a body of people gathered to nurture and support the weak and those who are struggling. It’s not a matter of covering somebody’s pain with cheap platitudes but rather being there with practical support so that the weak and suffering will know that God’s mercies do not come to an end. Dame Julian of Norwich said We rise and we fall and both are the mercy of God. The key is to see the mercy of God in everything and to rejoice that He is most certainly with us, encouraging us now to rest awhile before He recreates us ever-new.

Last laugh: I get up every morning and read the obituary column. If my name’s not there, I eat breakfast. George Burns.

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