“You’ll remember me when the west wind moves upon the fields of barley…”
Sting’s pensive lyrics from Fields of Gold inspire us to recall the most treasured moments of our lives. November is a month of remembrance and gratitude. For the Catholic Church, it begins with the Festival of All Saints and Commemoration of All Souls. For our nation, it continues with an annual tribute to Military Veterans and concludes with a Thanksgiving Feast to celebrate family, friends, freedom, and faith. It recalls unsung heroes, unknown soldiers, uncanonized saints, poor souls, wayward sinners, those who have given us life, those who have taught us love, and those who have shown us mercy.
This fall season inspires us to hold on to golden memories and, in our minds, return to places of goodness, beauty, and happiness. Trees display their amazing array of colors as leaves hang onto branches as long as they can before falling to the earth; they symbolize our own desire to hang onto what we know and love for as long as we can. As we approach the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month we are given reason to contemplate that which is final: our own fall to the earth. By the end of the month, few leaves still cling.
Perhaps we should approach the final fall much like we approach falling in love. We don’t have a lot of control over its happening and usually we’re jolted when it does. It’s beyond our understanding so, in a sense, we have to be pushed that we can take the fall. Some spiritualists refer to it as falling upward, or falling into divine gravity and grace. Just as we can stare at waterfalls for hours at a time, as many have done at magnificent sites like Niagara, Victoria, or Angel Falls, so can we get lost in the immensity of the mystery of our own fall. The fall may be more like a leisurely walk along the back nine, a downhill stroll after climbing our summit, or a westward horseback ride into sunset; it can be a simple realization that we’re in our second-half of life, news of a medical diagnosis that diminishes us, or the death of a dear friend or family member. The heart of fall, found in November, takes us from the exterior beauty of God’s magnificent cathedral of creation at the threshold of surrender to an interior nakedness that is also stunningly attractive. This eleventh hour meditation may bring us to maneuver the stages of death and dying—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance—while it also beckons us back to the fields of gold, those places that hold treasures of our best times and greatest relationships.
From the battlefields of Normandy, Gettysburg, or Iwo Jima, to unexpected visits from butterflies, cardinals, or owls, to an all-too-real dream of our Loved One, surprise hearing of her favorite song, or unexplainable reality of his touch, we sometimes become very aware of the thin veil that separates us from the other side of eternity. There is much to appreciate about this time of year. Can you also appreciate November’s invitation of fall—to take the fall into God’s grace, plunging into His divine gravity—into an immense mystery beyond our comprehension? The lyrics of O Danny Boy might help us embrace a core message of this Month of Remembrance and Gratitude:
“…Come and find the place where I am lying to kneel and say an ‘Ave’ there for me. I shall hear, though soft, you tread above me; and all my grave will warmer, sweeter be. For you will bend and tell me that you love me; and I shall sleep in peace until you come to me.”