John Keats described autumn as the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!’ Mists conjure up a wistful feeling, of landscapes cloaked, barely discerned. ‘Mellow fruitfulness’ hints at the growing season drawing to an end, and rich fruit, that has been long in the sun, finally being ready to pick.
In autumn, we miss sunny afternoons and balmy evenings. Colder and earlier evenings signal winter is approaching. We anticipate the chill of dark December. Autumn is a season for looking back for remembering the warmth of August, the ‘gold rush’ of the Rio Olympics, the barbecues in the garden, the picnics by the River Cam, and the strolls in the park. Reflection characterises these slower, slightly melancholic days. This harking back, though, can lift our spirits.
What is true of this season is true too for the autumn of our lives. That stage when we have lived long, have accrued some wisdom, and now recognise the importance of enjoying every moment. Remembering helps us savour what has been given to us.
By remembering, we cherish the people that have enriched our lives. Recalling names and faces is a feature of our All Souls’ service at the end of October, and, of course, of Remembrance Sunday. Calling to mind memories of those who have loved us is a sweet sorrow, a reminder of a love that sustains us still. Honouring those who have made the ultimate sacrifice takes our thoughts above the humdrum and reconnects us with those noble, enduring values of sacrifice, loyalty and courage.
Even our painful memories, of rejection, of betrayal, of hopes dashed, can remind us of those who prayed for us, gave us the strength to cope and helped to restore us. Even in the darkest and most difficult of experiences, we discover that God is faithful. The only way to the strength of God’s love is to know weakness. The only way to know the sustaining power of God’s love is to be vulnerable.
Through persevering in adversity, we find that God gives us the courage we need to cope. This confidence in God enables us to respond positively to all that life brings. To enjoy what is good, and to press on in the hard times, this is our task as Christians. In his Kingdom, God will draw a rich harvest from every aspect, every season of our lives. As Edith Sitwell wrote: ‘Love is not changed by death and nothing is lost, and all in the end is harvest.’