There’s something about the month of October that seems to serve perfectly as a final chapter.
The leaves turning orange and then yellow before falling off the elms and oaks, blanketing the ground with their soggy, colourful crunchiness. The temperature dropping below zero for the first time in half-a-year, frosting the morning grass before melting in the afternoon sun. The Damoclean prospect of the long, hard winter ahead. The season of Thanksgiving. The season of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. A time of reflection, renewal, and change. And death. A season when we say goodbye to those who’ve struggled lately against nature, against time, against disease.i
I visited him yesterday. Just in time, as it turned out, for he passed away this morning. I had to speak loudly. He could barely hear me. He could barely respond. His few words were laboured and required tremendous effort. But his eyes recognised. His eyes appreciated. His eyes said that this was the final chapter. That he was almost at peace. I told him that he should be proud of his legacy – that the generation he helped shape was in turn giving birth to another generation – that he would live on in our memories and through his work. What else would a dying man want to hear ? That’s what I hope my loved ones will tell me when my October comes.
RIP Archie Lim (1932-2019)
- UPDATE 02/12/19 : Thinking about this phenomenon a bit more, I actually have another theory about “Deadly October” now. At 53 degrees North latitude in Canada, the sun starts to set really rather early at this time of year, particularly when Daylight Savings Time kicks in around Halloween. In conjunction with flu season, rapidly shortening days kick our immune systems into over-drive. With sunsets around 5pm (compared to the 10:30pm mid-summer), our bodies go into “repair” mode, which saps the remaining energy out of those who are hanging on by a thread, thus precipitating their demise just as the snow starts to fall. It’s a confluence of factors that works against those fighting for their lives. ↩