Farmer Boy wants to grow up as quickly as possible. He is like a thirty-year-old trapped inside a nine-year-old body. Play for him always means work in a different way than it does for my other two children. Last September, as my mother-in-law lay dying of breast cancer in a hospice unit, Farmer Boy followed his father’s example. He sowed wheat.
When faced with crisis, sometimes people fall apart. Other’s pray. Some people turn to addictive behaviors to crutch through it (like drinking, smoking, eating or crocheting). I talk or write (and crochet. And drink a little).
My Farmer works.
When a situation beyond his control becomes emotionally unmanageable, he maintains equilibrium by getting his hands dirty, or wielding shop tools, or roaring into a field.
It reminds us that life goes on; the Earth continues to spin and the seasons will keep changing and there WILL be a tomorrow. I think working gives him a sense of the world being bigger than himself, and allows his personal tragedies to stay in perspective until he feels ready to deal with them.
I’m not certain that a person is ever ready to deal with their mother dying. They just eventually have to.
Last September, My Farmer’s mommy died. She was his friend. He saw her every single day of his life with the exception of college. Somehow they had managed to grow their relationship past the mother/child bond into an adult friendship (that’s hard to do). My Farmer harvested corn or milo or soybeans all day and then sat by the slumbering, failing body of his mother all evening. Sometimes he stayed all night, giving his father, brother or sisters a break. When we knew there was no turning back, when we had to help her face the idea of hospice, he planted acre after acre after acre of wheat.
His little son watched him. And he sowed his own.
Last wheat harvest, one year ago, was the final time my mother-in-law was healthy enough to participate in the activity on her beloved farm. She helped us shuffle equipment and people from field to field. When the children got tired of riding with Dad in the combine or Mom in the grain cart, she watched them at her house. She made or picked up supper sometimes. And we all felt bad every time she did because we could see (though not openly admit) that things were beginning to get rough. But she wanted to so badly; she loved the farm, loved the work. She loved to help; service was an essential part of who she was.
It should be no surprise that the planet has spun us back around to this same place, but it is. Today would have been their wedding anniversary.
Farmer Boy has been harvesting his wheat, just like Dad. In all things, there is a cycle of birth and death.
There is always an ending.
There is a proper time for everything, but we don’t always know when that is. We just try our best to be prepared and accept the unknown.
He came out of bed repeatedly last night with flimsy excuses. Finally I gave up my conversation with My Farmer and went to sit at his bedside; something was obviously bothering him.
“Mom? I can’t stop thinking about what happened to Grandma. I keep having flashes of being with her at the hospital, of how she looked and how she sounded. I keep remembering her funeral.”
We cannot always understand God's timeline.
“I just can’t stop thinking about when that is going to happen to me. Not cancer, but…you know…that one day I’m going to…perish.”
(I guess he’s like his mother – Sometimes my friends laugh at me because my texts contain un-textlike vocabulary.)
“One day it’s going to be me, under the ground like that. Like Grandma. I know that my ‘being’ will keep existing, but my body is going to be buried forever.”
"There is a time to every purpose under heaven."
We talked about heaven for a long time. He wondered what it felt like, and I told him to think of a time when his heart was so full of love and joy that it seemed to be spilling out of him – he said when Grandpa brought him a junker mower to take apart – I told him that heaven is like that, but even better.
We talked about making sure we don’t worry so much about dying that we forget to live – really live. About how Grandma never let dying get in her way of living.
“Some things about this life are so good, Mom. But it’s so sad that we can’t have a pause or rewind button. I don’t want to get old. But there are good things about getting old. Think about your Gramma, Mom – she’s so old and she is so healthy! She lives by herself and goes to the aquarium and picks up babies and cooks and cooks and walks to the pond behind her house. I don’t think I’m going to die until I’m very old. Most people in our family live for a really long time. But I wish there was a pause button.”
He finally fell asleep, holding my hand in both of his, pressing it to him to be sure I wouldn’t go away.
I wish there was a pause button too.