Perspective is an interesting thing. Here on the farm we just finished running around frantically preparing for the second significant flood of the season. The first happened less than two weeks ago, and we just got all of the animals back outside and (mostly) organized before we had to get them all back up to high ground again. On our end this is serious business. We have to keep our animals safe, both for their well-being and to protect the significant investments we have made in them. While we are sitting here in our warm, dry house watching the waters rise around us, we are listening to the radio news about a devastating terror attack in Paris that has killed at least 120 innocent people. Earlier today my father-in-law picked up the cremated remains of the love of his life. While the daily grind is important and must be tended to, the larger events that orbit my life help keep me humble and focused on what matters most.
I remember a specific moment from my teenage years when I was complaining about something to my parents. I don’t remember what I was upset about, but I do remember being in tears and whining to my parents that they weren’t being “fair.” I’m sure I wanted to break curfew or something equally paramount to a 15 year old. My dad sat me down and rather gruffly described the teenage son of my mom’s friend who was dying of cancer. At the time this maddened me; why would he try to make me feel guilty for something that was out of my control? But over time this has had a serious impact on my life. I remember this conversation so many years later because it spoke truth to my heart. When difficult events in my life start to overwhelm me I try to focus on what I have to be thankful for, and I am always surprised by how much the scales tip in that direction. This is a humbling, powerful thought exercise I try to practice frequently.
Many of you read my tribute to my “mother-in-love” Nancy, and have probably guessed she passed away. She did so on October 28th, in her home surrounded by family. She truly died the good death, a concept I have been interested in for some time. Many people in our society die in hospitals, connected to machines, and alone. I am so grateful that Nancy was able to go the way she wanted, and was overwhelmed with the emotional intensity that surrounded the event. Nancy was much loved, and a large circle of family surrounded her bed and prayed over her the night before she passed. The experience was unlike any I have had before, and it will be with me forever.
Those that lived with Nancy must constantly feel her loss. They laughed with her, cried with her, provided her with daily care, and were there to love her or offer support when she needed it. Her loss has undoubtedly left a large hole in their lives, and I imagine the struggle to move forward will be a long and difficult one. The grief is different for us. Being on the farm, with our busy daily lives, we don’t have constant thoughts of Nancy. This is both a blessing and a curse. We’re busy enough to push aside the grief and keep it in the abstract, but as Andrew complained the other day, “I don’t have time to grieve.” The grief is there though, and we must recognize it. I’ll find myself walking along at the farm, feeding chickens or tossing hay to goats when -BAM- I remember that she is gone and my eyes well up with tears.
Mostly though, I am comforted with fond thoughts of Nancy. The other morning I was standing at the kitchen sink with a mug of coffee in my hand, and the bright sunlight was radiating through the window directly into my face. This time of year the sun stays low in the sky, and the sunshine was warm and welcoming. I closed my eyes and imagined Nancy’s smile, and felt intensely peaceful. Every time Andrew hugs me (which thankfully is often), I feel Nancy’s embrace. Some day when we have children I know they will have Nancy’s eyes (a very strong trait in this family!), and hopefully her loving compassion. They will most certainly know her through our stories and photos, and their father’s love.
In my last post I eluded to my recent trip to India and Sri Lanka. So much has happened since then, it’s difficult for me to go back and write about the trip in detail. Instead I am posting a link to some of my favorite photos for you to enjoy. Experiencing cultures in far-flung places and glimpsing the lives of people who are far less fortunate than myself is another of my favorite thought exercises. Not only am I grateful for the experience of world travel, I am grateful for the dumb luck I have as a middle-class person living in a wealthy nation during a relatively peaceful time. I suppose this post is timely as we approach Thanksgiving, so I’ll leave you pondering: what do you have to be thankful for?
For the photos from my trip follow this link (you don’t need to have a facebook account to see them): https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.838499273715.1073741831.14400628&type=1&l=b5d4cdf294