Every year of the decade-or-so that I lived in Madison, Loran Miller would recruit me, as summer meandered into autumn, for the harvest. Handing me two plastic five-gallon buckets and pointing me in the general direction of the wheelbarrow, which I would need when the buckets were full, he would enjoin me to go forth and find the two fruits of early autumn with which the lawn of San Damiano Friary was so abundantly blessed.

The black walnuts might be anywhere: walnut trees were numerous on the friary’s lawn, and the resident squirrels were fond of moving the fallen nuts, dropping them, moving them again. The apples, on the other hand, could be found clustered in a single spot at the very edge of the property, just north of the brush pile. They were windfalls that dropped from the neighbor’s tree onto a point of land that formed the northern peak of one of many shallow crescent-shaped bays on Lake Monona’s eastern shore.

It was an unremarkable act, this annual act of effortlessly gathering stores from Mother Nature’s pantry.  Yet it is one of the most vivid memories that I hold, in the sense that I can almost hear the water splashing up against that little point of land where the apples fell; that I can almost smell the apples; that I can almost feel the stray branches of the brush pile reaching out to snag my socks or my hair in passing; that I can almost hear the squirrels scolding me for taking a cut of their walnut harvest; that I can almost feel the delicate balancing act of pushing the wheelbarrow to the back porch without impaling myself on the splintered handles.

The fruits of my labor – not that it was tremendously onerous labor – were eventually rewarded with cookies and applesauce, a là Loran.

The chocolate-chip-walnut cookies were not for the faint of teeth: they inevitably contained bits and pieces of black walnut shell. As Loran nonchalantly noted: the shell gives them a nice little crunch.

The applesauce was not for the faint of heart: it may have contained bits of worm. As Loran was fond of noting: everything goes in the hopper – apples, bruises, leaves, stems, worms, and all. Extra protein. And crunch.

“In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn, we remember them.”

In the autumn of the first year that the earth revolved around the sun without taking Loran along for the ride, a colleague and her son and I spent a sunny, yet chilly, afternoon picking apples at an orchard southwest of Ann Arbor, MI. The resultant applesauce simultaneously was and was not as good as Loran’s. Perhaps it wasn’t as good because I set aside the worms and the leaves and the stems before mashing up the apples. Or perhaps it wasn’t as good because I used significantly less sugar. But perhaps it was just as good because I made it in remembrance and with love.

“In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn, we remember them.”

This year, perhaps, I’ll make some black-walnut-chocolate-chip-cookies. If I do, they’ll probably be simultaneously as good and not as good as Loran’s. If they’re not as good as Loran’s cookies, it will be because I’ll be extra careful to remove the shells. If they’re as good as Loran’s, it will be because I made them in remembrance and with love.

“In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn, we remember them.”

Each of us remembers in little – almost insignificant – ways the loved ones who have moved on from earthly existence. And each of us who follows the Gospel Message strives to remember in little – perhaps seemingly insignificant – ways the example of the one who brought that message to life 2000 years ago on the shores of Galilee. But is the tiniest of acts truly tiny or truly insignificant, when it is done with love? When it is done in remembrance of one who loved so well?

What are the tiny – seemingly insignificant – things that you do to remember love, reflecting it and amplifying it until it fills the ends of the earth, and suddenly, from the tiny-ness of your seemingly insignificant act, there is nothing but love for all the world?

– Lori A. Randall

“When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them.

When we are lost and sick at heart, we remember them.

When we have joys we yearn to share, we remember them.

So long as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.”

– excerpt from A Litany of Remembrance by Rabbi Sylvan Kamens and Rabbi Jack Riemer