On Life and Loss and Oh, Those Glorious NH Leaves

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InDepthNH.org is grateful for Susan Dromey Heeter of Dover who brings her Joyful Musings to InDepthNH.org. This was one of my favorites among favorites. — Nancy West
By Susan Dromey Heeter
Joyful Musings

October 1st of 1982. I was riding on the back of a Harley through the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts.

The day was gloriously sunny, beautiful – and those leaves … I’ll never forget the golds, the yellows, the brilliance of those Trix cereal mountains.

It was a Saturday; I’d been studying in the UMass library, toiling away at my sophomore year, working on my studies when my roommate, Karen, came in, breathless and excited and said, “Hey, my boyfriend, Mike is here and has a friend who’d love to take you on a ride – wanna go?”

And, as I was never one entirely devoted to studies, to earning a 4.0, I left that library and was on the back of a motorcycle within moments.  To this day, I cannot tell you the name of the guy with whom I drove. I cannot tell you exactly where we went. I cannot remember if I even sported a helmet, but I can tell you the date and the weather because it was October.

It was glorious.  And that day was one where I was so grateful I’d enjoyed some serious carpe diem.

You see, as I muse joyfully on a day over 34 years ago, the day is significant in that the very next morning, I got a call to my UMass dorm room that my dad had died.  He was 55 and my world changed in an instant.  Dad was gone. He’d had a massive heart attack and sadness and tears would replace the glory of a motorcycle journey for months to come.

That October took on a very different slant. The months that followed were grueling as anyone dealing with death knows.  It’s exhausting to get used to death, to celebrate first Thanksgivings and Christmases with a most definite pall of sorrow.

But in musing of Octobers, I am still grateful I did not stay in that library that October 1st, grateful I had the thrill of a ride on the back of a motorcycle. That day, that glorious, beautiful day, allowed me a reprieve as I trudged along with sadness.

I could go back and see those leaves, that brilliance of an autumn in New England. I could remember a day when I still had my dad.

And I write this to remind myself to always pause, always take the opportunity to thrill in life. It’s so fleeing – which, of course, sounds so trite – but the older I get, the more those words ring true.

I think of the movie, Dead Poets Society, where, ironically, Robin Williams’ character whispers, “Carpe Diem” to his students. “Caaaarpeee Diiiieeem.”

October is a perfect month to embrace that seize the day, capture the moment, carpe diem bliss.  And as I muse joyfully from lovely New Hampshire, picturesque Dover, I invite you to celebrate this October – in sadness, in health, in life and death.

Those leaves, no matter what comes down the pike, will always be glorious, always be spectacular – but only in October. So carpe diem – enjoy your bliss. And if someone invites you to ride on the back of their Harley, oh, do drop everything and go …

Susan Dromey Heeter, a writer from Dover, recently let her hair go au natural white. Besides writing Joyful Musings for InDepthNH.org. Dromey Heeter is a secondary Spanish Teacher at Dover High School and the mother of two teenage daughters. Writing has been her passion since her English majoring days at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Dromey Heeter has lived in The Netherlands, Alaska and currently basks in all things New England, including the frigid winters. An avid swimmer, Dromey Heeter’s great passion is to bring back body surfing as most children have no idea how to ride waves without ridiculous boogie boards. She also writes about thrift shopping and all things frugal in a column called “Budget Vogue” for the New Hampshire Union Leader.

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