I love the fall season.

I prefer Thanksgiving to 4th of July, bluejeans and boots to sandals and shorts, football to baseball, shorter days to long ones. There’s just something about stepping outside on the first cool morning of autumn and feeling like something GOOD is in the air. I can’t explain it.

October in particular is a significant month to me. 5 years ago, my dad was diagnosed with a blood disorder. A rare, potentially fatal blood disorder. By the time October rolled around, he was literally surviving by blood and platelet transfusions as he awaited a bone marrow transplant. And then, right before his 55th birthday, he received it. And he has been a walking success story ever since. So in October, we celebrate. We celebrate his birthday and his “second” birthday – and we reflect on how thankful we are for his good health and another year of life.

But then suddenly, October took on a new meaning. 2 years ago this month, our family received devastating news. News that changed lives forever when we lost one of the most big-hearted, caring, kind, loving souls we ever had the pleasure of knowing. He was my childhood best friend. He was one of my surrogate “big brothers”. He was my comic relief. He was AMAZING in the kitchen.

He was. he was.

It still doesn’t seem right to refer to him in a past tense.

And now, when autumn approaches and I step outside to that first cool morning, I feel a mix of emotions well up inside of me. I feel relief that the long, hot summer is finally ending. I feel joy in celebrating another year with my dad. I feel sorrow with the pain of a never-healing wound in the loss of our sweet Eric. And I start to think – my Octobers are such a reflection of life. The highest highs, and the lowest lows. But, in between, the season is still filled with everyday things that I love. A crackling bonfire, a pile of crunchy leaves, the roar from a football game on the television, a prayer around a Thanksgiving spread, a piece of my aunt’s chocolate pie, hugs from relatives that I sometimes only see once a year.

Those in between moments are what give balance to the season. They are what keep us from taking for granted the highs, and falling apart in the lows.

It’s so strange too – I’m not sure if it’s because we lost him during this time of the year, or because I was used to spending more time with him during the fall months of our lives – but I feel Eric’s presence very strongly during the crisp, bright days of October and November. Those reasons are partly why, I’m sure – but also, I think, because he was so much a part of the things that I love about life. When I think of my favorite season and my favorite things…..well, he’s always on the list. Favorite relatives. Yep – he’d be near the top of that list, for sure. So I think about him and I think about how he’d want me to feel – especially on Dad’s birthday and Bone Marrow Anniversary and about my life and family in general and I’m sure he would tell me that I should hug them tight, laugh a lot, eat chocolate pie. I’m sure he would tell me that one bright shining day, I will see him again – so to make the most of the meantime and not linger in sadness.

Yes, autumn is life. The celebrations, the sorrows, and more importantly, the everyday little things that make being alive feel like a gift.