It is the fall again. Another year is nearing its annual display of blazing colors. Autumn is my favorite season. The brilliance of the colors and the variety of hues in the fall foliage are truly breathtaking. Mid-October signals the peak period for fall's magnificent display in my section of the country. I'm looking forward to the colors this year. I wish that it would come more quickly than it does, but then what?
The dazzling colors will soon fade into monotonous melancholy memories of what it once was but isn't anymore. Death and depression will hang invisibly upon the barren trees where once a rainbow of leaves enthusiastically colored all nature. Are those naked trees aware of more than the coming chilling nights and the approaching winter? Do they have any hint of the spring? Having had their moment in time, they merely stand there exhausted by their spectacular show. They will have to endure and wish that the season of fall had lasted longer and had never yielded to the cold bite of the winds of winter.
Most falls come and go as they have for millennia, but the fall of 1963 was to be different from all previous ones. The colors that autumn were more brilliant than usual. Hope abounded in nature and in our nation. The leaves laughed and danced as they coated themselves with the paints supplied by Jack Frost before they fell to the ground. All was right with the world or so it seemed. During that autumn there was a sense of promise and confidence. Maybe even the leaves would remain until the spring.
Then came November 22, 1963, and more died that day than John Kennedy. Camelot came crashing down upon all Americans. The entire world heard those shots in Dallas, but for most Americans those shots also signaled the death of a dream. Even now the sounds still echo within both my head and heart. I haven't gotten over John Kennedy's death. It has been four decades since Kennedy's death in Dallas. One would think that by this time, I would have adjusted to that tragedy.
Soon after the leaves are gone for good this year, we shall see scenes of Camelot again of television captured on black and white film. Just for a moment, he is there again. Alive! Could it have been only a bad dream? Is it possible that John is still alive? Maybe, it was all just a personal nightmare of mine. Perhaps, hope wasn't raped by his death after all.
In a millisecond, I will come out of it. John is gone. It wasn't just my personal nightmare; it is a national nightmare. I will sit back and watch the film clips and grieve as I have done for over four decades. How could this have ever happened? It still seems to me that John Kennedy's death wasn't meant to happen. Any death involves tragic loss, but J.F.K. was more than just a president and an assassin's victim. He was a symbol of hope and confidence for an entire generation around our world. With his death came a cosmic change. The world was rocked for all future generations. No longer would we spin with the optimism with which we spun as the leaves merrily danced early that fall of '63. I will die someday and when I do, I will still have in the pit of my stomach the same ache and sickness that I first felt when I heard the news of Kennedy's death. A whole generation of Americans was shaken to their very core. I, for one, have never quite recovered.
How do you recover when the earth shakes so much beneath you that the ground upon which you stand will never be the same? If we had thought that the assassination of John was an anomaly, we had only to wait a handful of years to see Bobby dying before our eyes on television. Camelot, confidence, and hope were all victims of the 60s along with the Kennedys, Evers, and King.
In a less macrocosmic way, each of us experiences soul-shaking events that seem as though they shouldn't have happened. We all experience the death of loved ones, divorces, or other changes which were never planned. When those events come crumbling down upon us, what do we do? Who will make it all better again? Even our mothers can't make these kinds of tragedies all better ever again. Then what do we do?
Sometimes, there is nothing that we can do except to go on. Put one foot in front of the other and continue the journey through life without the confidence and hope that we once had. It is hell! For these times, there isn't much else to do other than to do the very thing that we feel we cannot do-that is to go on. Journey on nevertheless even if the journey seems without purpose or hope. And yet, know this: the winter will yield to the spring in time. Before too much longer, we will be facing the fall again. Yes, the pain and ache still threatens to kill our spirit, but we have made it through the first year. That year will mysteriously move toward year two and then three. And so it goes. The dead don't come back, marriages can't be remade, and other tragedies remain, but we are still here years after we thought that we couldn't go on.
This fall promises to be an exceedingly beautiful time brief as it may be. Enjoy it! The colorful leaves don't last any longer than does the promised hope of Camelot in the real world in which we must all live.