I walk the plank into the front wagon and weave my way through knee-high drifts while I try not to step on other feet or legs. D and I find our spot and lean back against the straw-padded side. We pile more straw over our legs and then lay a blanket over that. The green John Deere chugs down the path and through the field while we creak and sway behind. I’m wishing I’d brought the big-girl camera to capture shapes of weeds and tree branches in the twilight. We stop for a moment to change drivers and spy deer at the hem of the field. Stilled, they watch us and then bound into the woods when the tractor jerks forward. Stars begin to pierce the darkening canopy.
We’re on a hayride with our new Sunday School class.
It’s our third hayride ever. The first was shortly after our marriage 40-plus years ago when we joined D’s college roommate and a group of other “kids.” I remember we felt like chaperones, D says.
The next was when D pulled our little red trailer behind his dad’s old John Deere, the one we inherited and eventually gave to D’s nephew. That tractor burned up in an arson-set Kentucky barn fire along with 19 horses. Anyway, that night we carried our kids and nephews out through our back woods. At some point the hitch pin fell out. We didn’t realize it until we got back home and the trailer fell off when we piled out.
Tonight I gaze at the half moon above and remember that three years ago this month, I had just moved from the Augustine Center into Petoskey’s Hiland Cottage with my mother. We’d struggled with how to spend those last days–at home, in the local Tendercare, or this hospice house 30 miles away. Whether to fight to the end and maybe do more harm–or let go and leave everything in God’s hands. Mom had just been diagnosed with stage 4 brain cancer–a glioblastoma multiforme–and given only five weeks to live. We–and she–chose this place. My sister, dad, and I moved in as well and lived there throughout that November. They were hard and precious days.
I think about Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old young woman with the same type tumor. She had scheduled this day to drink a lethal concoction and die, but decided to delay. I wonder if she knows Jesus.
My mom was not big on cold weather, but we’d bundle her up in her “hamburger” cape and Cat-In-The-Hat socks and wheel her outside where she’d sit and stare at the trees and the birds until our fingers turned blue. She’d marvel at the “sunspots” by day and the “moonspots” by night–like she was drinking in this world by the way the light refracted through the lenses of her glasses. I wondered what she thought about in the silent moments. It might have been fun to pad her well and take her on a hayride.
The colors this year have stunned me with their beauty. And I find myself thinking a lot these days about last things. Especially since I’m the matriarch of the family now.
What if I never see another red leaf?
What if this is the last tanned field of corn I crunch through?
What if this is my last sunrise?
What if I never again see a supermoon?
What if I never see another deer this side of heaven?
I breathe deep the scent of woods and straw and memories.
And I vow to not let a day–a moment–go by without drinking in its beauty.
To find forever in the now.
In the stillness,
Chasing blue flowers with dear Laura.