“I don’t know why God kept bringing me farmers for suitors! I was starting to get a little annoyed,” said my mother-in-law with a mix of false disgust and impish pleasure. She had been telling a story to me and my middle daughter. George was a dairy farmer that longed to make this Canadian beauty his wife. “He always smelled funny to me.” We all giggled, knowing she had not married the British Columbian farmer George but another, the farmer from Arkansas who shared her dream of Missions.
And her farmer sat quietly in the other room delighted by the sound of her voice.
In the weeks prior to this, I had watched my mother-in-law, Doreen, make phone calls, entertain visitors and make sure she had spoken to all those she loved and cared about. The brain tumor had grown rapidly. As it quickly took her body, she rebelled against this invader cruelly swallowing her mind. This had been her greatest fear as she lay trapped unable to move in her bed.
And her farmer sat quietly by her side lovingly caring for her needs each day.
“I wish that we had lived closer Robyn. You know, so if you needed a cup of sugar while you and the girls were making cookies, you could ask to borrow mine.” I knew what Doreen was saying. She wished she had given our family something different. “Yes mom that would have been great,” was my tearful response. Some things don’t need a lot of words.
And her farmer sat quietly with sadness upon his face.
Though she was comatose for several days, her farmer was sure Doreen would rally. Helping with her care, I knew she had rallied while telling the story of George the dairy farmer. It was clear the end was near, and my sister-in-law and I suggested he gather the family for a last visit.
And her farmer sat quietly by her side in hopes of hearing her voice once again.
Over a week, the family gathered around her bed three times. Doreen’s spirit seemed to fight against leaving. And my sister-in-law and I watched as the farmer began to methodically care for his beloved. His movements seemed to distance himself from the impending pain of her loss – he was tired. Concerned and knowing his heart would ache later by these actions, we lovingly suggested he remember she was still a woman and his beloved wife. “I bet even now she would love to be held by you. And if it were me, I would long to hear my husband whisper his love for me in my ear.” I tenderly urged. An odd look crossed the face of this very private man.
And her farmer sat quietly contemplating the words.
The next day I was cleaning in the kitchen and making a grocery list. In my peripheral vision, I saw her farmer enter the living room where Doreen lay. Following to ask him a question…I stopped midstride as I watched him awkwardly hover over her bed and then gently move her aside.
And her farmer laid quietly by her side, holding his beloved and whispering softly in her ear.
Early on during her illness, I had started giving her massages. She seemed to enjoy it and although she was unable to speak would give small indications of her enjoyment. As I gently massaged her head, I told her that we would take care of her farmer. I wasn’t sure what that would look like, but assured her that he would not be alone. Her fear was that he would sell everything, buy an RV and become a hermit. That night as she labored for breath, we took shifts watching over her. Exhausted, my sister-in-law and I went to bed, while her farmer watched over her during the wee hours of the morning.
And her farmer sat quietly with her as she took her last breath and entered her new beginning, her new everlasting life.
In the end it seems you remember the beginning. We told stories of her life. How we met and how much she had meant to us. There were those who were silent. Both responses were true and right. And we held each other, cried and remembered her dying wishes. Celebrating her life was sweet, complicated and took many of us out of our comfort zones.
And her farmer sat quietly remembering and grieving the love of his life – longing for the day he would see her once again.
In loving memory of the farmer’s beloved wife Doreen ~ April 1931- October 2007
Robyn Whitaker lives in Texas with her beloved husband of 32 years. She has an adventurous heart that is learning to breathe. Lover of truth, seeker of story, aspiring author and newborn dreamer, this mother of three is in search of redemption and living her Kingdom purpose.