A Special Kind of Beauty at the End

There is a special kind of beauty that comes at the end of life. Like the explosion of color that fills the fall, I believe that many people shine their very brightest in their final days and hours. While some withered leaves cling to the barren branches well into the winter, most explode and command attention in their final days. That explosion of reds and oranges occur as the leaves go through the slow parade of dying and falling summon people who gasp at the beauty. Perhaps life is a lot like that when people die before their time.

I think of Phil. He had turned 44 days before he was assassinated. He had finished his PhD five days prior to the deployment, had his research published, garnered numerous awards, and watched all five of our children graduate from high school LIf

ool (three from college) and move on to full college scholarships. More than that, he had accomplished everything he ever dreamed of at 21 when I met him. He had the long term marriage, the big family, career success, education, and travel. Phil lived a successful well lived adult life–better than many could imagine. He shone like that brilliant red leaf that every eye looks at.

Did he think he was going to die on that deployment? No, but he certainly did things he had never previously done in other deployments. It was if he knew at some level that the end was near and he wanted to ensure that his life was in order. To say that he made a super human effort as a father that last two years and that he organized and discussed the way ahead should something happen (and he truly thought that as an Air Force Academy professor he was safe) showed the absolute brilliance as his star shone in every area.

Sure, he was one of the first leaves to fall. Was it fair? Depends on how a person looks at it. He was give so much in such a short time. Some people live many more days and do not know love or success at that level. Looking at it from the survivor perspective, instead of living in what I do not have, I chose to switch my paradigms about two years into the loss. I am thankful that I had those 23.5 years with a man who was not only my best friend, but someone who taught me to love well because he loved me well until his last breath. His beauty (his life) made my brown leaf look beautiful next to him. We all can’t be that brilliant red or orange, but next to him, my beauty has blossomed.

I do not know the hours or days of my life. Perhaps I will be the odd leaf that clings to the branch well beyond what most leaves have. Perhaps I will fall sooner, but in any case, there is a beauty in the living and an even bigger brilliance in the life that was well lived.


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