Fall is a gorgeous time of the year in the Northeast, bearing witness to the progressive baring of the trees, shedding their brilliantly sun-soaked leaves of distinctive color.
No one captured the spirit of Fall any more dramatically than Leo Buscaglia. The son of Italian immigrants, Felice Leonardo Buscaglia grew up in Los Angeles and didn’t learn to speak English until he entered primary school. His teachers mistook his fumbling language skills for mental retardation and placed him in a special education class. He learned English from a teacher whose compassion would ultimately shape his career.
After serving in the U.S. Navy in World War II, Leo attended USC on the G.I. Bill where he received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees. He served as supervisor of special education in Pasadena City Schools from 1960 to 1965, and subsequently joined the USC School of Education faculty and taught special education and counseling at the university until 1984. Dr. Buscaglia was a gifted educator and counselor, but became better known as a public lecturer and author.
This time of year always reminds me of the Fall of Freddie the Leaf. Dr. Buscaglia’s book is subtitled as a Story of Life for all Ages. It is not only a way of dealing with death through the celebration of life that appeals to all ages, but a story that cuts across all lines and cultures. Published in 1982, the 20th anniversary edition of the book bears this postscript: “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 conatgious 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.”
Leo died of heart failure in 1998, at his home in Lake Tahoe, at the age of 74. A note was found on his typewriter the next day which read: “Every moment spent in unhappiness is a moment of happiness lost.” Little else will bring you happiness as much as reading and re-reading The Fall of Freddie the Leaf. It is the cycle of life personified through a tree and its leaves facing the seasons, adding a sense of purpose and wonder. If you have lost a loved one, it will bring comfort and courage.
Here is a beautiful tribute in sight and sound, to Leo Buscaglia’s story of The Fall of Freddie the Leaf. The subtitles are in Polish, but don’t worry if you don’t kapeesh. Just enjoy the music and sumptuous photography.