November and I have not had a very good track record. For about the past ten years, November has given me challenges, frustrations, heartaches, and/or disappointments. The death of a loved one, the hospitalization of another, the loss of a job, the end of a relationship—the list is long and grim.
It’s not just me though. I think November is intrinsically sad. Gone are the glorious autumn leaves and fall harvests. The trees are now bare and the plants all dead with frost’s arrival. The clocks turn back and both morning and evening are plunged into a deep darkness, so uninviting that I barely want to leave my bed or venture outside.
The Church feels this, too. The Church year winds to a close each November and eschatological overtones fill the readings each Sunday as we hear about the end of the world. Yesterday was All Soul’s Day and we remember our loved ones who have passed from this world.
Death. Sadness. Darkness. The end things.
November is a sad month.
But then, nestled in this month of sadness, is a little celebration called Thanksgiving. Ironic? No—very fitting.
It’s tempting to be overcome by the sadness. Sometimes circumstances can be so overwhelming, the grief seemingly too much to bear, that hope is almost extinguished and things are as bleak as a November evening.
Sadness, pain, and suffering need not have the final say. The souls we pray for this month are gone from us, but not really. Their lives are changed, not ended.
The trials and crosses from my Novembers past were hurtful and trying at the time. But those crosses also molded me and shaped me, teaching me lessons I will never forget.
There is always reason to give thanks. No matter the cross we carry, its weight will never exceed the blessings liberally and abundantly bestowed upon us. Remembering that and willing oneself to be grateful—even when things are bleak—forces a light into the darkness and, in that light, one’s perspective changes.
So I still don’t like November. Yet, perhaps because of what it represents and teaches, it is the most important month of the year for me.