“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintry light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen.”
— Ernest Hemingway
I felt especially connected to the seasons the year Ethan died.
The previous spring had been filled with so much excitement and the promise of new life. As the tree in our front yard filled with green lives, hope bloomed inside of me with eager anticipation over all that was to come. My heart felt warmer than those beautiful springtime afternoons.
Summer was the season of Ethan. One day we were driving home from the beach, windows rolled down, discussing baby names, and laughing over the irony of how many girl names we both liked and how few boy names we could agree on. Days later I went into the hospital for a routine ultrasound, blissfully unaware of the tidal wave lurking over the horizon. Soon after that we were sitting across the table from the geneticist as we received the devastating news that our little baby boy would likely fight for every breath. As the temperatures continued to rise, it felt as if we had been thrown into some sort of fire. Week after week brought more appointments, more scans, and even more bad news. Weeks later, we rushed to the hospital in the middle of a warm, August night. We uttered joyous hellos and tearful goodbyes. I can vividly feel the wall of thick heat that met me as I was wheeled back outside with empty arms, as sobs shook my entire body.
My broken heart welcomed the arrival of Autumn. The trees were stripped bare, their leaves falling like tears, and I felt understood. I found comfort in the way the changing of the season seemed to reflect my own feelings. Everything that had once bloomed so vibrantly now felt so lifeless and bare. As the cool of winter set in, questions, anger and defeat swirled around me like harsh winds. I struggled to stand beneath the force of it all. Everything felt so cold and I struggled to remember what spring had felt like.
But it came. Just like clockwork, spring returned and brought life to the trees that had once looked so dry and barren. As the warm afternoons returned, my weary heart began to find comfort and Hope. I was reminded that, though a part of me would remain changed by the seasons I had faced, spring would come again. Though a piece of my heart may ache, there was still hope–there would be spring again.
Autumn is more than a season of loss and grief to me. It is a season of harvest. It was as if I were pruned through the harsh winds of grief, and entered spring changed–more compassionate, more grateful for the sweet gift I had been given. Unlike the literal seasons, we have no idea how long the harsh winters of our lives may last–but we can cling to hope that winter can pave the way to spring. Springtime would cease to exist without Autumn and Winter.
Kristin Hernandez lives in Southern California with her husband Chris and their Queensland Heeler mix, Dakota, and the newest addition to their family–a baby boy they welcomed in April. After struggling with unexplained infertility for several years, Kristin was thrilled when she became pregnant with Ethan. The celebration quickly turned to concern when doctors discovered Ethan had a serious heart defect and was missing a piece of his brain–likely indicative of a chromosome abnormality. Ethan was born on August 16, 2015 and spent his 93-minute life in his parents’ arms. Kristin is now a mother to five babies in heaven, including four of Ethan’s younger siblings who she has never met. Despite these struggles, Kristin has resolved to embrace the life she has been given and to leave a legacy for her family. Kristin works in communications by day, but can also be found running, camping, writing or having a conversation over a cup of coffee. She writes at www.sunlightindecember.com and is the cohost of the Through the Lens Podcast.
Main photo by Artur Rutkowski on Unsplash