Last night’s cold snap must have done it: pools of buttery leaves encircled the base of the gingko tree growing in front of the noviceship building.

It was October 1957. A new postulant, I shivered in front of the ill-fitting window of the workroom where I mended holes in the stockings worn by the novices. For weeks, subtle colors—from lackluster greens to hesitant yellows to riotous golds—of this large ginkgo tree had soothed my homesickness. Within its spindly arms I found comfort, a place in the world, until the next bell ripped me from my reverie.

At the time, I did not grasp death’s innate presence in all of life. True, the raking of crisped leaves and their burning in ash pits or the streets had always spoken of the inevitability of winter’s bite. True, it meant wearing more layers of clothing—and in the convent, a long black woolen shawl, black knitted scarf pinned under my cap, gloves, and rubbers. But, in time, the warming sun began to restore color to the shriveled earth, even leafing out ginkgo trees in gardens and along streets—and so much more, until cyclical shriveling began anew.

As decades passed, I awoke to the inevitability of death’s scar in all of creation, including myself, a truth from which I could no longer disassociate. Each day’s fire humbles me and fans my yearning for ultimate communion, just out of reach.

Like stricken leaves of ginkgo trees, I pray for the willingness to let go—It’s done so simply.