There’s a tree in the complex where I live that has heart-shaped leaves. In the spring and summer they are dark green and by fall they turn a brownish-yellow. I walk by this tree several times a day when I take my dogs for a walk and yesterday I noticed it had one leaf left. Looking at that leaf reminded me of the book, The Fall of Freddie the Leaf, by Leo Buscaglia Ph.D.
If you never heard of Leo, I suggest looking for his books in your library. Back in the 70s and 80s he wrote wonderful, inspiring books and was called “Dr. Love” by his students at the University of Southern California. He taught a non-credit class called “Love 1-A” that always had a long waiting list to get in.
I was watching a television program in my son’s room at Stanford Hospital. It was Leo lecturing about love on a PBS channel.
James was nine years old and had some unknown health issue that affected his knees and ability to walk. I was scared to death and watching Leo helped take my mind off my son’s illness. We never found out what was wrong and he got well on his own. Needless to say I was relieved.
I never forgot Leo’s PBS lecture though. It was about being human and (of course) love and how we should all, chill out, stop fighting and just love each other. I bought his book, Living, Loving and Learning, a few weeks after James got out of the hospital.
When my dad died the following year, I didn’t know how to explain his death to my son who never knew anyone who died before. My dad had been living with us six months before his death. He had cardiomyopathy and towards the end, he needed help with daily living, so he moved in with us.
The Fall of Freddie the Leaf is about the natural cycle of life using a leaf as a metaphor. Leo explained how Freddie eventually fell from the tree but didn’t die, he was reborn as part of the earth. It’s interesting looking back because Leo was describing impermanence. He was writing about Buddhist beliefs, although I don’t know if he even realized it. I think he was Catholic.
I didn’t know anything about Buddhism either back then, but I did know there was a Buddhist leader named The Dalai Lama. I was living in San Francisco in the 90s when he came to the city for a visit. One morning a Catholic priest from, Saints Peter and Paul Church, came in for breakfast at a diner I worked at. I was his waitress and the priest was all worked up about “some Buddhist monks wanting to take a tour of his church.” He went on to say “monks and Buddhists are the devil’s children.” Since I wasn’t interested in organized religion, I didn’t say anything because I just wanted to get his food order. There were other hungry customers waiting to be served, but I bet Leo would have told that priest a thing or two.
I haven’t thought about Leo in years until yesterday when I saw that last leaf hanging on to the tree. It’s funny how certain things or songs can take you back to a memory in an instant. I named the leaf Freddie. I went back later that night. The tree was bare and there were too many leaves on the ground to figure out which one he was. I was happy Freddie was reunited with his friends, waiting to become part of the earth that would someday welcome the spring.
There’s more to the story of The Fall of Freddie the Leaf but I don’t want to give it away.You can read the book or listen to a reading on You Tube.