The air has changed.  Rather than being sun-kissed by the warmth of the day during the summer months, the crisp air of fall is an invigorating embrace which envelopes me and is a welcomed presence.  The air is not the only change this season brings: classes have resumed, regular work schedules have begun again, and the rhythm of busy schedules have ensued.  This past summer, now a sweet memory, has ended; however, as the seasons ebb and flow, I can look forward to next summer.  Now however, I am falling in love with autumn once again.   

Of all seasons, fall is my favorite.  With every fiber of my being, I look forward to the moments that give me a sense of comfort, those moments of grace when something inside of me changes and I feel an indescribable peace.  I like to consider that these precious moments are when I am most grounded and present to my life and the lives of those around me.  I also believe these moments are when I truly know that while my brother has passed from this life to the next, his life has simply changed rather than ended, just as the seasons change from one to the next and yet share commonalities year to year.   

My brother died on October 29th, 1994 in a motor vehicle accident.  His death was unexpected and in my opinion, untimely.  Almost seventeen years later, I remember quite well the events of that day; however, I am often taken aback when the sight of pumpkins or the smell of hot apple cider, even the sensation of the warmth that particular drink brings to my throat and stomach, cause my eyes to well-up with tears. 

The associations that I have made between the day of the frightful accident to various autumnal smells, sights, and tastes, add a bit of longing to my life of what could be, as well as a profound gratitude for the gifts that remain – the smells, sights, and tastes of autumnal things, the people who I love and care for deeply, and the life that I have to live.  

The month of October and fall as a whole are often difficult.  Yet, there comes simultaneously a sense of peace.  I know that the life of my brother and my own life have changed since his death, like the seasons change from one to the next, and while I cannot fully articulate the paradox of the grief I have known, I do know that for me the bitterness and sweetness of this time of year impact one another.  These, the bitterness and sweetness, give my life a certain sustenance and meaning: I mourn the loss of my brother and simultaneously, have a great appreciation for the life that has been given to me and the lives of those whom I love.  I intend, therefore, to enjoy this season to its fullest, because indeed it is a gift! 

Kathryn McGrath 2011

Kate McGrath

My journey began on March 22, 1986. There is nothing any more or less significant about my story than there is another person’s story; however, my story is unique nonetheless. I am twenty-four years old, a graduate student working towards a degree in Mental Health Counseling with a concentration in Thanatology, and an admirer of the simple gifts in life: refreshingly cool air, hot apple cider, the way leaves pick up and float gently in the air. My story has had its share of challenging moments, one of which was the loss of my older brother and only sibling, John. John was involved in an alcohol related motor vehicle accident. This event has undoubtedly shaped who I am today and who I want to become, professionally speaking, in my future. Grief, I have found, has an uncanny sense of humor – it can shake you to your core and simultaneously help you to see more clearly the importance of each day. While the death of my brother is a significant chapter in my life story, I have grown from that tragic experience and have come to realize that because of that chapter, I am at a place where I doubt I would be had my brother not died. I am grateful for the gift of my life; along with the many experiences I have had thus far – the bitter and the sweet, and have found that often, the bitter moments are what make life more significant. If my life had involved only moments of joy and happiness, I wonder if I would be able to recognize that individual quirks of others, someone’s voice, even the way someone’s clothes smell, are indeed memories to hold onto – from my experience, I believe those would have been taken for granted. All chapters in my life have been formative – and for all of those, I am grateful.

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