One of my favorite short stories is “The Last Leaf” by O. Henry. It is about a woman who is watching leaves fall from a tree outside her window. She has the thought that when the last leaf falls, she will die. However, the ending comes with a fantastic twist.
I was reminded of this short story recently when I was sitting near the water’s edge of a lake while enjoying a cold beverage and take-out pizza. I noticed a single dead leaf attached to a branch of a budding tree. Completely surrounded by green life, the brown leaf clung to the branch.
Amazed by its tenacity, I thought about the seasons that it has persevered through. It, too, had its spring season and time of growth. The leaf has experienced wind, rain and the scorching sun. Then, fall arrived and it experienced a changing of color. When all of the leaves around it were letting go, the leaf held on. Cold, snowy days of winter drifted by. A full year has passed, yet, this leaf tenaciously held on.
Intrigued by its stubbornness, I wondered at its unwillingness to let go. The natural course of the life cycle would mean that this leaf would only remain from Spring to Fall. However, its refusal to accept such order left it to unnaturally endure the blustery days of winter. Although it clung to what was familiar, its brown existence is no longer beneficial to the new life and season of the tree.
I realize that there is a balance to be achieved between tenacity and stubbornness. Where one can be beneficial, the other can be detrimental. It can be challenging to know when to hang on and when to let go.
This week my youngest finishes high school, along with the Class of 2020, without the pomp and circumstance of a ceremony. I’m learning a lesson from that last leaf. Even in the midst of the fantastic twist of COVID-19, may I have the wisdom to know when to hang on and when to let go. May I be willing to embrace the seasons of change gracefully even when it is time to say “goodbye.”