“The bus roared on. I was going home in October. Everybody goes home in October.”  – Jack Kerouac, On the Road

My father died 10 years ago – 27 years to the day that the world lost Kerouac – on October 21st. That was the beginning of my loathing October.

On October 7, 2010, my beloved Wheaton Terrier, and running buddy, Malachy, died. He wasn’t even 9-years-old.

In 2014, the year I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I wrote this on Facebook: So it’s October and although I have felt this way for a long time, I have now earned the right to express my opinion. I HATE PINK! While the “pink ribbon campaign” certainly did something tremendous in terms of creating awareness for the importance of early detection screenings and raised a lot of money for research, the marketing of PINK, IMHO, has gone overboard. There are tons of companies out there making a lot of profit on the backs of survivors and victims. So all I ask is that before you deck yourself out in PINK as a means of “supporting” the cause, do your research and find out the *real* % of your purchase that actually helps the cause and how much is actually “supporting” the business that is selling it. 

Then five days later, when I didn’t think anything else could possible make me hate October any more, my husband died by suicide.

Between anniversaries and pink ribbons, October is an emotional minefield to be navigated with graceful precision. Somehow each year I succeed. And each year I get better at it.

This year I noticed how on a really foggy October morning the bold colors still penetrate the haze, making even the dullest day bright. This year I noticed how the setting sun magnifies the foliage so sky and landscape blend into a blazing fire.

I remember looking out the window in the CCU where my father lay dying and thinking, “It’s a beautiful sunny day. And look at the magnificent colors in the leaves!” When I left the veterinarian’s office the day Malachy died, I didn’t go home. I went to Saddle River County Park where he and I ran so many miles together. I soaked up the natural beauty of the season and cherished my memories. The weekend after Chris’ funeral, my daughter and I went apple picking with some family and friends. Someone took a picture of us hugging at the top of the hill in the orchard. It now hangs in a frame on my bedroom wall. It’s a symbol to me of the continuation of life. I ran a race that weekend too. I always run races in October.

We gather with friends on crisp evenings around the fire pit on the patio. We enjoy hot apple cider and donuts. We plant mums and carve pumpkins, and the leaves in hues of oranges, yellows and browns once again cover the lawn.

The bus roared on…the continuation of life.

For me, October has become a month to mourn those lost; yet be reminded that I am a survivor. With the warmth of sunshine and vibrant fall foliage, I find something to celebrate: the lives once lived and the rest of my life full of Octobers yet to be lived.

Ramsey, New Jersey. October 2015.

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