DEEP IN THE RICH FARMLAND of southwestern Minnesota, a group of farmers are planning for harvest. But not their harvest.
They will gather to bring in the crops of their friend and neighbor, Steve, who was found dead at the scene of a single-vehicle crash eight days ago. Even before last Friday’s funeral, these good people had lined up half a dozen combines to sweep across Steve’s corn and soybean fields south of Lucan.
One day for the corn. One day for the beans.
I don’t know the identities of these friends. But I expect they were among the mourners who packed St. John’s Lutheran Church in Redwood Falls on Friday to console a grieving family, to find comfort in Scripture and song and words spoken.
I was there. We heard the pastor tell us how God loved Steve so much that he called him home—too early in our eyes, at the age of 64—to spare him from evil and to give him peace.
Words that helped us to understand, from a pastor who considered Steve a personal friend, who himself paused to wipe tears from his eyes during his message.
As I sat in the balcony, looking down toward the casket, to the family in the front rows, my heart broke. For my youngest brother who had stretched his arms along the back of the pew to encircle his wife and their teenaged daughter and their son. They had lost their father, father-in-law and grandpa.
And later, at the cemetery, as my dear sister-in-law leaned forward in her chair, her head bent, her hands clasped tight in her lap, my heart broke.
Minutes later I pulled my 11-year-old nephew close as tears slid down his cheeks, as his body shook with sobs of grief. I wrapped him in my arms, stroked the back of his head, wished with all my might that I could make everything better for the boy who loved his “Papa” so much.
Later, in the church basement, we found moments of laughter in the stories shared by Steve’s oldest son about the perfectionist farmer who each morning walked out of his farmhouse and checked to see that everything was in its place in the farmyard.
We laughed at the man who spent one final weekend with his family, arriving at a downtown Minneapolis hotel with a small bag, asking to, once again, borrow his other son’s shaver.
It felt good to laugh through the tears, to hear about the grandfather who kept cats because he knew his grandchildren loved them, who got a lamb because he knew his grandchildren would love that lamb.
We laughed and remembered and celebrated the life of a man who was dear to so many.
When Steve’s farmer-friends roll their combines onto his acreage, they’ll pay him one last tribute—by bringing in the final harvest.
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted…”
NOTE: The above combine photo is for illustration purposes only and was shot just outside of Courtland on Saturday morning.
© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling