One year ago was Lauren’s due date.

Last year, October 10th was both a terrible and wonderful day. Terrible because Lauren was not with us – would never physically be with us again. Wonderful because we were able to get a little peace and closure by visiting the Jizou-do at the Hase Temple in Kamakura. I wrote about that trip on this very blog.

I loved the idea of Lauren being born in the autumn. In October, especially, as it’s probably my favorite month. Autumn is far and away my favorite season, and I loved the idea of being able to plan autumn birthday parties for her. Autumn in Japan is particularly beautiful. The cherry blossoms get a lot of lip service, but for me, nothing really beats the sea of warm oranges, yellows, and reds that wash over Japan’s mountains in the autumn. There’s something poetic about this last burst of color before the grayness of winter sets in, this last hurrah of the flora before settling into cold-weather slumber. It’s like a promise: yes, the dark days of winter are coming, but life wins out in the end. The colors fade, only to come back stronger and greener with the spring.

Everything about Lauren’s due date was fortuitous. My favorite month, my favorite season. A birth year ending in a 1, like mine and like Geordie’s.  The year of the Rabbit. (Have you met Rabbit-sensei?) Everything fit so perfectly. We couldn’t have planned it better.  She may have been a surprise, but she was such a perfectly timed surprise.

I look back on those days last year and wonder how we got through them. They seem a blur, a smeary stretch of days spent preparing for our return to the States and trying to understand what had happened to us. It seemed that autumn settled in almost as soon as I got home from the hospital. Autumn was new when Lauren was born, taking is first tentative steps and gently elbowing summer out of the way. By October 10th, it had made itself comfortable.

But there was no Lauren to enjoy it with.

I love autumn still, but it means so much more now than just the waning of the year. It has always been, to me, a celebration of life, even as we mourn the passing of the summer and prepare for the coming darkness. In the cold crisp air and the falling leaves, I’ve always sensed a measure of hope. The old life must fall away to make way for the new.

Now, going into this second year without Lauren, I see how autumn brings her back to me. That’s part of the magic of autumn, I think, to bring us remembrances of times past – not just the last year but previous years. All of these memories that we keep deep inside ourselves, mementos of what has gone but have left profound impressions upon us. Spring and summer are for living, autumn and winter are for reflection. It’s a time for gathering energy, for preparing for the year ahead.  Life doesn’t end with winter; it merely pauses for a bit to gather its strength and begin again with spring.

One of the lessons Lauren has taught me is to look for hope in all things. Despair is a trap we set for ourselves, one that’s all too easy to fall into. It’s hard for me to put into words how my dead daughter brings hope into my life, but I can try to explain it with one word: motherhood. She gave that to me. It can never be taken away. And that gives me hope for a new year, a new spring. Perhaps, in time, a new and young life to cherish along with hers. Even on these bleak, dark days of grief, there’s still that to hold on to.