It is a story about an old man who had lost his memory to Alzheimer's and therefore each fall would run around, crying and kissing the leaves as they fell to the ground, mourning the end of the world. It inspired his thoughtful and individualized handling of the leaves...it also allowed for his ability to live completely in the present--without pretense.
Each fall I re-visit it, hoping for some new spark of insight, for some glimmer of recognition and to generally keep it before my eyes. I read it to be reminded of the innocence with which we begin and end our lives so as not to lose sight of it in the in-between.
This piece has become a seasonal cornerstone for me. Particularly at a time when it is trendy to talk about 'living in the present,' it is an important take on the practice of living in the presence (of God or one another). Here's to hearing the invitation with grace and new ears this year.
John Kavanaugh, SJ
"...You see, he had lost his memory almost totally, so he wouldn’t have been able to remember what had happened the previous fall. He wouldn’t have been able to remember that there had been a spring.
The man lived totally in the present. In the presence.
Not by gift of mysticism, but by erosion of the body. And so when the leaves started falling each fall, it was the end of the world for him.
The trees were dying.
The earth was ending.
No wonder it was an occasion for such tender handling of the leaves and embracing of the earth.
Having lost his memory, he had won that sweet and painfully overwhelming sense of the present.