As I noted last week, my father recently died. I imagine I’m just at the beginning of a trajectory of grief and loss. This has been complicated by a handful of family members, including Henry and I, subsequently coming down with COVID-19. As I pondered what to write for this week’s post and struggled to focus, I remembered witnessing the cycle of life during prior summer visits to Colorado landscapes recovering from wildfire.
I’ve written before about living with wildfire in the desert southwest. It’s part of life here. It will likely become even more prevalent as our planet adapts to the stressors placed upon her by more than eight billion people. Yet fire brings new growth as well as devastation. Some pine trees have actually adapted to fire by developing pinecones that are, in essence, sealed shut by resin. Only fire can melt the resin, release the seeds, and thus begin the new cycle of life.
The cyclical pattern of life was brought home to me on the Sunday after my father’s death. When visiting Albuquerque, we tend to worship at St. Michael and All Angels church. Checking service times online, we discovered that they are in a time of leadership transition, which certainly resonated with my own sense of disorientation. Yet the service I attended (Henry was already sick) included the baptism of two young children. Leadership transition and any correlative uncertainty about the future were (at least to some degree) irrelevant to the ongoing life cycle of the congregation.
In all aspects of nature, the cycle of life continues. New lives arise and are welcomed into the community, even as other lives end—like my father’s. Grass sprouts alongside the charred remains of stately pines. It’s all part of the cycle of life—thanks be to God.
I invite you this week to keep watch for signs of the cycle of life. Where do you see both death and new life, endings and beginnings? How can you give thanks for all of it?