Essays on Faith: God’s precious gift of memory to hold loved ones near

“Let me stay in this moment ... forever!” I said, as I surveyed my surroundings on this glorious October afternoon. The hills are speckled with color. Dazzling reds, oranges and yellows stand out amid dull greens and browns. Warm sunshine, less intense than it was a month ago, highlights the beauty of the mountains.

A few days ago, I was excited about the beautiful orange maple tree in my front yard. Well, guess what? Millions of orange and yellow maple leaves now cover my front yard.

They’re ankle deep!

And the few left on the tree are letting go willingly as the gentle October breeze nudges them. The scene reminds me of an overnight snowfall in January — when you go to sleep in one kind of world and awake in another. I think it’s odd, too, that the maple tree is nearly naked while a pear tree standing a few feet from it is still covered with shiny, dark green leaves. It’s as if the ornamental pear tree allows me one last look at summer even as I relish the splendor of autumn.

Ah, how the changing seasons delight me.

Spring with the sudden appearance of a warm, yellow sun, welcome after a long, cold winter; showers that assist the sun in the gentle awakening of sleeping violets, crocus and daffodils.

Summer with its sometimes unbearable heat and humidity, lightning and thunderstorms that both frighten and amaze us, and evenings filled with the giggles of children as they play a variety of games or catch lightening bugs.

My beloved autumn who flaunts her cerulean sky, brilliantly colored foliage, shorter days, and a quietness that foretells a more restful time ahead.

Winter with its cold gray days, long nights, unexpected snowfalls that delight children of all ages, and joyous holidays that bring families together in loving celebration.

But with only five days left of the month I eagerly anticipate all year, I plan to enjoy each day to the fullest.

How could I not love October?

The first man I ever loved was born in this magnificent month. My father. And he was every bit as gentle as October. He had a smile like a soft, white cloud that could melt a chocolate bar at twenty paces. He hated discord and was a peacemaker his whole life.

He was the brightest ray of sunshine in my life. He was always there for me. My mother worked outside the home and my father worked shift work, making it easy for him to be with me when she couldn’t. He cooked, he took me places, he was funny, always cheerful and my friends liked him. Thanks to this arrangement, I was a happy child.

But nothing ever stays the same. If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s change.

Sometimes, when things are going very well, we wish they’d never change but, deep down in our soul, we know they will because that’s just the way life is. Without change, we wouldn’t grow. Without change, we wouldn’t learn. Without change, life would become stale.

Most of us don’t like change because we fear the unknown. But it comes whether we want it or not, and whether or not we like it!

Some say change is not difficult if you’re in control, but we all know that God is in control of everything that happens in our lives and He has a good reason for everything He does. Yet, our human nature often resists the changes that come and it’s difficult to adjust.

Unfortunately, all changes aren’t good. Some alter your life in ways that aren’t welcome.

On the coldest, dreariest day in January, a month that is nobody’s favorite, my father passed away. It was the darkest day of my life. I couldn’t understand why God would take such a good man and loving father, a man who had not one enemy.

After he died, my mother never stopped telling me, “You’re exactly like your dad!” But I didn’t mind. I reasoned that if I were that much like him, then a part of him still lived.

As time passed, that theory was borne out as I began to see his face in the warm, yellow glow of springtime and hear his laughter in the giggles of children as they played games on hot summer evenings; and when I caught a glimpse of his smile in a clear, blue autumn sky, and recalled his quiet demeanor on a hushed October evening; and when winter brought an unexpected snowfall, reminding me that my father loved snow as much as I.

Thank you, God, for each lovely season and for the precious gift of memory that allows us to hold our loved ones ever near to us.

Peggy Toney Horton lives in Nitro.

Essays on Faith may be submitted to gazette@wvgazettemail.com.

Find more Essays on Faith at www.wvgazettemail.com/life/religion.

Funerals for Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Abner, James - 1 p.m., Keller Funeral Home, Dunbar.

Black, Thomas - 11 a.m., Hafer Funeral Home, Elkview.

Bowcott, Doris - 1 p.m., Mt. Union Church, Pliny.

Dolin, Clayton - 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Harper, Brandon - 1 p.m., Cunningham-Parker-Johnson Funeral Home, Charleston.

Hively, Thomas - 1 p.m., Leonard Johnson Funeral Home, Marmet.

Kirk, William - 8 p.m., Hafer Funeral Home, Elkview.

McDonald, Jeremy - 11 a.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Rollins, Melvin - 1 p.m., Casto Funeral Home, Evans.

Short, Elizabeth - 1:30 p.m., Fidler & Frame Funeral Home, Belle.

Simpkins, Anthony - 1 p.m., McGhee-Handley Funeral Home, Danville.

Stone Jr., Darrell - 2 p.m., Smith Cemetery, Leon.

Thorne, Thomas - 1 p.m., Tyree Funeral Home, Mount Hope.