“As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
As a young girl I wondered about him from the absences. Years later, I witnessed him in the transition. And now, I’m learning about him from the memories.
I knew the chair, his chair, in the living room. Mostly empty for long stretches of the day while he planted seed, or harvested crops, or milked cows. Constantly tending this and fixing that. His end table, often containing a phone, glasses, the tv remote, and occasionally a farming magazine; all poised and ready for his return just after supper and in time for the evening news. I knew his spot in the garage, usually empty, for a farmer’s work is never done. I knew his chair at the kitchen table, the one with the wobbly wheel that always seemed to fall out if anyone except him sat in it – like it knew we weren’t supposed to be there. During these years, he was indistinguishable from the farm, his farm. He was it and it was him. Able to withstand the ups and downs of life. Strong. Rooted. Resilient.
Then time went on and there was a transition. Subtle, yet obvious. His chair no longer spent so much time on its own. His spot in the garage became less vacant. His presence filled the absences that were once so frequent. Another, more permanent, layer of dust coated his workroom in the barn where his best tinkering had taken place. The tending and fixing fell to other hands attached to more able bodies. The work never ended, but his role in it did. There was now time for chatting. Musing about the world. Wondering about places beyond the farm. In these years his strength was different in my eyes. It was a strength of spirit and of peace. He spent more than 70 years working hard, and though his body slowed, his mind did not. In this transition he was was still strong, still rooted, still filled with an inspiring and stubborn faithfulness.
In the later years, I became more absent from this home as he became more present. Yet, from those who have known him longer than me, I heard the stories of how he spent all those hours where I had felt his absence. Where the truck was, when all I saw was an empty garage. The work he was doing while I was toppling out of his chair with the wobbly wheel. In the relayed memories, I heard another side of his transition from life as an active farmer to a life spent more at home. Through the stories and memories of friends and family I understood more of who he was. Stern, yet playful. Kind, but tough. Hard-working, while also challenging. Peaceful. Exacting. Faithful.
So now, in a way, he has returned to being present in the absences, like when I was a child. We still see his chair. Pass by his truck. Trip over his boots. Hear echoes of his chuckle. They say you are not really gone until everyone who knew you on this earth is also gone. So while his soul has left this earth, we still have the memories. The stories. The anecdotes. We will always have the pieces of him that live on in us.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?”
John 14: 1-2