Nate is not a nature guy and doesn’t normally notice what’s going on outside his window. Today was an exception. Here in Michigan we had a summery day in late October with temps in the mid-seventies and lots of sunshine. The day begged us to “come outside and play,” so the two of us decided to take a short ride. Although I’d planned to drive to our tiny town a mile away, as we were weaving through the subdivision Nate began commenting on the beauty of the colored leaves.
“Wow, look at that yellow one. And the red over there. Are the colors darker than usual this year?”
Instead of driving to town, we drove to a beach-look-out with a wooden deck. Since no one was there, I drove right up to the planks so Nate had only four small steps from his car door to the railing. There was a bench on the deck drenched in sunlight, and a warm breeze was blowing off Lake Michigan.
“Could you tolerate that bench for a while?” I asked, hoping he could. And he nodded.
We sat quietly, taking in the beauty of the lake, the sand, waving dune grasses and endless fall color. Some people don’t like autumn, because colored leaves represent a process of dying, and they know bare trees will soon follow.
Our family’s reality is similar in that Nate is in the process of dying. Strangely, though, this season, much like autumn, has a spectacular beauty to it, and none of us want to minimize that just because we know what season comes after this one. The Bible says, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven, a time to be silent… a time to lose… a time to weep… a time to mourn… and a time to die.” (parts of Ecclesiastes 3)
Although we are moving along the time line that includes every one of those negatives, God is simultaneously providing counterpart-positives. This morning, I looked at Nate sitting on the bench. He is on the losing side in every physical category, losing muscle, balance skills, the ability to read and write, clear thinking. Yet there we sat, enveloped in beauty, enjoying the season around us, and thus enjoying ourselves.
This sounds terrible, but there is much about our season of dying that we’re all enjoying. Our family is together, providing tremendous support, counsel and love to each other. Our grandbabies are with us, punctuating the air with giggles and baby talk. Prayer is the staple of nearly every hour. Scripture rescues difficult moments by delivering sustenance and vigor. Friends are bringing a steady stream of delicious, healthy meals to our door. My calendar is empty, absent of pressure to accomplish. Our mailbox is full of loving greetings. We have time to ponder, to converse and to wait.
The Ecclesiastes passage says, “There is a time to love.” Love takes time, and right now we have time all day long, every day. We only have today without any promise of tomorrow, and at any time a flurry of health-related activity might spin into our peaceful home. But for this day, we have time, both quantity and quality, and we are delighting in it.
In the mean time, many of the other positives of Ecclesiastes are also taking place, right now: a time to laugh, a time to heal (relationships), a time to get, to keep, to embrace, a time of peace. We’re experiencing all of that, and its wonderful.
The same chapter also says, “God has made everything beautiful in his time.” (verse 11) It’s not just the good times of laughter, dancing and healing that he makes beautiful. He makes everything beautiful! The one condition is that the beauty will be evident only in his time, not ours. I believe these days of preparation for Nate’s “time to die” have been made beautiful by God’s detailed involvement.
Autumn is a time of dying, yes, but the process is undeniably beautiful. It’s breathtaking. As we took it all in on the bench overlooking the dunes ablaze with fall color, we couldn’t see winter’s bare trees. We know they’re coming, but that can’t spoil today. We know death’s awful separation is coming, too, but we won’t let it ruin the now-moments. God has made everything beautiful in his time, and that time is right now.