“freddie the leaf, the fall of”

The only author I can wholeheartedly call my favorite is Leo Buscaglia. Otherwise, I select books according to their subject matter. But I’ve enjoyed reading every one of  Buscaglia’s books. A postscript to one of my favorites, reads:

“Leo Buscaglia approached life with joy and enthusiasm. He pursued a path of perpetual learning that took him to places of wonder, excitement, and enlightenment. His sense of urgency to live life now and explore all that is possible was contagious to all who knew him. His life was dedicated to the single concept of ‘Love’ and all the beautiful and positive elements that it encompasses. …He died of heart failure on June 29th, 1998, at his home in Lake Tahoe, Nevada at the age of 74. A note was found on his typewriter the next day. It read, ‘Every moment spent in unhappiness is a moment of happiness lost.’

In 2004 I was in Chautauqua, New York, visiting my daughter while she danced in a summer program. Browsing through the bookstore housed in a charming building, I happened upon “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf” by Leo Buscaglia. Tucking myself away in a corner, I read it. A lump formed in my throat for the story was written to assuage a child’s loss of someone special, to death. The book, in its 20th edition, is a “beloved classic that has helped thousands of people come to grips with life and death.” I’d like to share it with you now, in the hopes that it might someday do the same for you.

Spring had passed. So had summer. Freddie, the leaf, had grown large. His mid-section was wide and strong, and his five extensions were firm and pointed. He had first appeared in Spring as a small sprout on a rather large branch near the top of a tall tree.

Freddie was surrounded by hundreds of other leaves just like himself, or so it seemed. Soon he discovered that no two leaves were alike, even though they were on the same tree. Alfred was the leaf next to him. Ben was the leaf on his right side, and Clare was the lovely leaf overhead. They had all grown up together. They had learned to dance in the Spring breezes, bask lazily in the Summer sun and wash off in the cooling rains.

But it was Daniel who was Freddie’s best friend. He was the largest leaf on the limb and seemed to have been there before anyone else. It appeared to Freddie that Daniel was also the wisest among them. It was Daniel who told them that they were part of a tree. It was Daniel who explained that they were growing in a public park. It was Daniel who told them that the tree had strong roots which were hidden in the ground below. He explained about the birds who came to sit on their branch and sing morning songs. He explained about the sun, the moon, the stars and the seasons.

Freddie loved being a leaf. He loved his branch, his light leafy friends, his place high in the sky, the wind that jostled him about, the sun rays that warmed him, the moon that covered him with soft, white shadows.

Summer had been especially nice. The long hot days felt good and the warm nights were peaceful and dreamy. There were many people in the park that Summer. They often came and sat under Freddie’s tree. Daniel told him that giving shade was part of his purpose.

“What’s a purpose?” Freddie had asked. “A reason for being,” Daniel had answered. “To make things more pleasant for others is a reason for being. To make shade for old people who come to escape the heat of their homes is a reason for being. To provide a cool place for children to come and play. To fan with our leaves the picnickers who come to eat on checkered tablecloths. These are all reasons for being.”

Freddie especially liked the old people. They sat so quietly on the cool grass and hardly ever moved. They talked in whispers of times past. The children were fun, too, even though they sometimes tore holes in the bark of the tree or carved their names into it. Still, it was fun to watch them move so fast and to laugh so much.

But Freddie’s Summer soon passed. It vanished on an October night. He had never felt it so cold. All the leaves shivered with the cold. They were coated with a thin layer of white which quickly melted and left them dew drenched and sparkling in the morning sun. Again, it was Daniel who explained that they had experienced their first frost, the sign that it was Fall and that Winter would come soon.

Almost at once, the whole tree, in fact, the whole park was transformed into a blaze of color. There was hardly a green leaf left. Alfred had turned a deep yellow. Ben had become a blazing red, Daniel a deep purple and Freddie was red and gold and blue. How beautiful they all looked. Freddie and his friends had made their tree a rainbow.

“Why did we turn different colors,” Freddie asked, “when we are on the same tree?” “Each of us is different. We have had different experiences. We have faced the sun differently. We have cast shade differently. Why should we not have different colors?” Daniel said matter-of-factly. Daniel told Freddie that this wonderful season was called Fall.

One day a very strange thing happened. The same breezes that, in the past, had made them dance began to push and pull at their stems, almost as if they were angry. This caused some of the leaves to be torn from their branches and swept up in the wind, tossed about and dropped softly to the ground. All the leaves became frightened. “What’s happening?” they asked each other in whispers. “It’s what happens in Fall,” Daniel told them. “It’s the time for leaves to change their home. Some people call it to die.” 

“Will we all die?” Freddie asked. “Yes,” Daniel answered. “Everything dies. No matter how big or small, how weak or strong. We first do our job. We experience the sun and the moon, the wind and the rain. We learn to dance and to laugh. Then we die.” “I won’t die!” said Freddie with determination. “Will you, Daniel?” “Yes,” answered Daniel, “when it’s my time.” “When is that?” asked Freddie. “No one knows for sure,” Daniel responded.

Freddie noticed that the other leaves continued to fall. He thought, “It must be their time.” He saw that some of the leaves lashed back at the wind before they fell, others simply let go and dropped quietly. Soon the tree was almost bare. “I’m afraid to die,” Freddie told Daniel. “I don’t know what’s down there.” “We all fear what we don’t know, Freddie. It’s natural,” Daniel reassured him. “Yet, you were not afraid when Spring became Summer. You were not afraid when Summer became Fall. They were natural changes. Why should you be afraid of the season of death?”

“Does the tree die, too?” Freddie asked. “Someday. But there is something stronger than the tree. It is Life. That lasts forever and we are all a part of Life.” “Where will we go when we die?” “No one knows for sure. That’s the great mystery!” “Will we return in the Spring?” “We may not, but Life will.” “Then what has been the reason for all of this?” Freddie continued to question. “Why were we here at all if we only have to fall and die?”

Daniel answered in his matter-of-fact way, “It’s been about the sun and the moon. It’s been about happy times together. It’s been about the shade and the old people and the children. It’s been about colors in Fall. It’s been about seasons. Isn’t that enough?” That afternoon, in the golden light of dusk, Daniel let go. He fell effortlessly. He seemed to smile peacefully as he fell. “Goodbye for now, Freddie,” he said. Then, Freddie was alone, the only leaf left on his branch.

The first snow fell the following morning. It was soft, white, and gentle; but it was bitter cold. There was hardly any sun that day, and the day was very short. Freddie found himself losing his color, becoming brittle. It was constantly cold and the snow weighed heavily upon him. At dawn the wind came that took Freddie from his branch. It didn’t hurt at all. He felt himself float quietly, gently and softly downward. As he fell, he saw the whole tree for the first time. How strong and firm it was! He was sure that it would live for a long time and he knew that he had been a part of its life and it made him proud.

Freddie landed on a clump of snow. It somehow felt soft and even warm. In this new position he was more comfortable than he had ever been. He closed his eyes and fell asleep. He did not know that Spring would follow Winter and that the snow would melt into water. He did not know that what appeared to be his useless dried self would join with the water and serve to make the tree stronger. Most of all, he did not know that there, asleep in the tree and the ground, were already plans for new leaves in the Spring.

The Beginning.

Having purchased the book as a keepsake for my daughter, I turned to the first blank page and penned the following inscription.

Summer 2004

Dearest daughter,

I discovered Leo Buscaglia in Chautauqua this summer. Reading his  words was like looking at my soul through a mirror. He wrote, and lectured about, and lived a life of love, always having a positive attitude. “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf ” continues Buscaglia’s outlook thru to the final stage in life. 

 Live each day to the fullest, love hugely and passionately, strive always to have a positive attitude toward yourself, others and life. These are what I leave to you, when I fall from the “Tree of Life.” And I know you will do the same for your children, when your turn comes.

I will always be with you in spirit until we are together again, where all leaves spend eternal springtime together. Think of me as your “Daniel.”

All my love, forever…Mom

my sentiments for you, as well…hugmamma.

“good for you” foods

Ever wonder why doctors, nutritionists, exercise gurus, and others, tell us to eat certain foods, that they’re good for us? Well someone who works with my husband passed along the following list, which takes the mystery out of their recommendation. And so I post it here for you to incorporate into your life, and share it with those you care about, just as… I care about you…hugmamma.

  • Apples – protects your heart, prevents constipation, blocks diarrhea, improves lung capacity, cushions joints
  • Apricots – combats cancer, controls blood pressure, saves your eyesight, shields against Alzheimer’s, slows aging process
  • Artichokes – aids digestion, lowers cholesterol, protects your heart, stabilizes blood sugar, guards against liver disease
  • Avocados – battles diabetes, lowers cholesterol, helps stops strokes, controls blood pressure, smooths skin
  • Bananas – protects your heart, quiets a cough, strengthens bones, controls blood pressure, blocks diarrhea
  • Beans – prevents constipation, helps hemorrhoids, lowers cholesterol, combats cancer, stabilizes blood sugar
  • Beets – controls blood pressure, combats cancer, strengthens bones, protects your heart
  • Blueberries – combats cancer, protects your heart, stabilizes blood sugar, boosts memory, prevents constipation
  • Broccoli – strengthens bones, saves eyesight, combats cancer, protects your heart, controls blood pressure
  •  Cabbage – combats cancer, prevents constipation, promotes weight loss, protects your heart, helps hemorrhoids
  • Cantaloupe – saves eyesight, controls blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, combats cancer, supports immune system
  • Carrots – saves eyesight, protects your heart, prevents constipation, combats cancer, promotes weight loss
  • Cauliflower – protects against prostate cancer, combats breast cancer, strengthens bones, banishes bruises, guards against heart disease
  • Cherries – protects your heart, combats cancer, ends insomnia, slows aging process, shields against Alzheimer’s
  • Chestnuts – promotes weight loss, protects your heart, lowers cholesterol, combats cancer, controls blood pressure
  • Chili Peppers – aids digestion, soothes sore throat, clears sinuses, combats cancer, boosts immune system
  • Figs – promotes weight loss, helps stop strokes, lowers cholesterol, combats cancer, controls blood pressure
  • Fish – protects your heart, boosts memory, combats cancer, supports immune system
  • Flax – aids digestion, battles diabetes, protects your heart, improves mental health, boosts immune system
  • Garlic – lowers cholesterol, controls blood pressure, combats cancer, kills bacteria, fights fungus
  • Grapefruit – protects against heart attacks, promotes weight loss, helps stop strokes, combats prostate cancer, lowers cholesterol
  • Grapes – saves eyesight, conquers kidney stones, combats cancer, enhances blood flow, protects your heart
  • Green tea – combats cancer, protects your heart, helps stop strokes, promotes weight loss, kills bacteria
  • Honey – heals wounds, aids digestion, guards against ulcers, increases energy, fights allergies
  • Lemons – combats cancer, protects your heart, controls blood pressure, smooths skin, stops scurvy
  • Limes – combats cancer, protects your heart, controls blood pressure, smooths skin, stops scurvy
  • Mangoes – combats cancer, boosts memory, regulates thyroid, aids digestion, shields against Alzheimer’s
  • Mushrooms – controls blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, kills bacteria, combats cancer, strengthens bones
  • Oats – lowers cholesterol, combats cancer, battles diabetes, prevents constipation, smooths skin
  • Olive Oil – protects your heart, promotes weight loss, combats cancer, battles diabetes, smooths skin
  • Onions – reduce risk of heart attack, combats cancer, kills bacteria, lowers cholesterol, fights fungus
  • Oranges – supports immune systems, combats cancer, protects your heart
  • Peaches – prevents constipation, combats cancer, helps stop strokes,aids digestion, helps hemorrhoids
  • Peanuts – protects against heart disease, promotes weight loss, combats prostate cancer, lowers cholesterol, aggravates diverticulitis
  • Pineapple – strengthens bones, relieves colds, aids digestion, dissolves warts, blocks diarrhea
  • Prunes – slows aging process, prevents constipation, boosts memory, lowers cholesterol, protects against heart disease
  • Rice – protects your heart, battles diabetes, conquers kidney stones, combats cancer, helps stops strokes
  • Strawberries – combats cancer, protects your heart, boosts memory, calms stress
  • Sweet Potatoes – saves your eyesight, lifts mood, combats cancer, strengthens bones
  • Tomatoes – protects prostrate, combats cancer, lowers cholesterol, protects your heart
  • Walnuts – lowers cholesterol, combats cancer, boosts memory, lifts mood, protects against heart disease
  • Water – promotes weight loss, combats cancer, conquers kidney stones, smooths skin
  • Watermelon – protects prostate, promotes weight loss, lowers cholesterol, helps stop strokes, controls blood pressure
  • Wheat germ – combats colon cancer, prevents constipation, lowers cholesterol, helps stop strokes, improves digestion
  • Wheat Bran – combats colon cancer, prevents constipation, lowers cholesterol, helps stop strokes, improves digestion
  • Yogurt – guards against ulcers, strengthens bones, lowers cholesterol, supports immune system, aids digestion (Lemon yogurt is the only one that is a natural anti-biotic with NO side effects.)

As with anything, proceed with caution. The information provided appears to be valid, but we must each consider our own diets, allergies, restrictions. One size does not necessarily fit all. I think I’ve heard that grapefruits should not be consumed by someone on Lipitor, a statin to lower cholesterol. Honey increases energy because it contains sugar. Tomatoes belong to the “night family” of veggies, along with green peppers and its relatives. Some people are allergic to them. And not all fish are created equal. The best options seem to be salmon, tuna, sardine, and halibut. Peanuts consumed in great quantities can be fattening because of its calories. (Something I must be particularly wary about.) A friend feasted on seedless grapes and aggravated her diverticulitis. Evidently the seed piths were still present, so they lodged in the lining of her intestines causing excruciating pain. So beware!

I’ve concocted my own diet of sorts based, in part, upon information gleaned from “The Perricone Prescription” by New York dermatologist, Dr. Nicholas Perricone. I read the book cover to cover on a flight home from spending 3 weeks with my daughter at a dance program in Martha’s Vineyard. By the time my plane landed, I was a believer in Dr. Perricone’s theory that “Inflammation is a probable culprit, a contributor to most major diseases and degenerative conditions, from cancer to Alzheimer’s, arthritis to stroke. Proinflammatory diets, exposure to sunlight, environmental pollutants, and a host of other agents assault our cells and cause them to generate inflammatory chemicals. This subclinical inflammation goes on day after day, year in and year out, leading to numerous disease states as well as the disease of aging. Yes, aging is a disease–a chronic, uniformly progressive, inflammatory disease that is always fatal. …I explain how inflammation occurs on a cellular level and detail my search for powerful anti-inflammatories–antioxidants that stop inflammation and repair the damage. If you can prevent and stop inflammation, you can prevent and stop the signs of aging.” Dr. Perricone goes on to say that “Sugar causes inflammation…”

I tried Perricone’s diet for 3 weeks, but couldn’t remain on it because it was so restrictive for me. Nonetheless the information he imparted made a lot of sense, and so I’m still a believer. Sugar causes inflammation; extra-virgin olive oil is a powerful anti-inflammatory food; trans fats are dangerous to my health; the risk of colon, breast, and prostate cancers can be lowered by eating fish, and their omega-3 fatty acids reduces the pain and inflammation associated with arthritis. And green tea does ramp up my metabolism, as does alpha-lipoic acid supplements.

Along with Perricone’s book, I’ve adapted much of what is contained in “The Anti-Alzheimer’s Diet” by California neuroscientist, Dr. Vincent Fortanasce. Because of him, I eat blueberries most days, fresh or frozen. “If free radical damage causes aging, then ingesting antioxidants in high enough quantities should be able to slow aging. Ironically, you don’t have to eat tons of foods high in antioxidants to slow down brain aging! For instance, studies have shown that eating just 3/4 cup blueberries per day can turn back the clock dramatically.” Fortanasce adds “Berries, including blueberries…are filled with anthocyanins,…that…sweep out, harmful free-radical molecules that trigger inflammation…studies show that antioxidant filled berries help fight against aging problems, such as short-term memory loss. Dark blue and purple berries also are linked to a significant reversal in motor dysfunction that correlates with aging and dopamine deficiency.”

hoping this may help…hugmamma.